Monday, July 31, 2006

Heat, Height and iPods

Today is the day the roofers come to rip off our hail-damaged shingles and replace them with insurance-paid 30-year shingles.
But the temperature is headed for the mid-90s and the heat index will be between 100 and 105.
It's going to be a day like the one Dave Barry wrote about where birds burst into flames in midair and nuns cursed openly on the street.
George, the foreman, (not George Foreman, the boxer and grill shill) told me last week that the only things that could stall the project would be rain or extreme heat. Besides being a health hazard for the workers, he said, extreme heat can damage the materials and compromise the water-tightness of the new roof.
Nevertheless, he just called to say the crew is on its way. So we shall see.
I spent a fair share of the weekend uploading music to my new iPod. The song count stands at 2,563 with five music videos, all of our prepped stock photos and some podcasts and I haven't even used the first 10 gigabytes of the 60-gig capacity.
I have to repeat my thanks to my sons and Maria for a fabulous birthday gift that I never would have bought for myself because I didn't understand how cool it is.
I'm rediscovering my CD collection in the process of ripping CDs to the iTunes software and it's a real treat to set it on "shuffle" and hear stuff I haven't heard in years.
I don't expect I'll take it on any hot weather motorcycle trips, though.
The owner's manual says temperatures over 113 will cook it and it shouldn't be operated in temperatures above 95 degrees. An extended period in a black motorcycle tank bag on a day like this would almost certainly kill it.
I don't find any mention of the effects of altitude in the manual, I've heard that devices that use a hard drive - like my iPod - can fail at altitudes above 10,000 feet.
I did a Google search for "ipod" and "altitude" and found this post by an iPod user named David Charlap:
Hard drive based iPods can be expected to fail if operated at high altitudes. In a hard drive, the heads do not contact the recording surface. They float above the surface on a small cushion of air, produced by the spinning platters. If the air is too thin to create this cushion, the heads will contact the surface, possibly even damaging it.
This isn't a problem in shipping, however. When the drive is not powered, the platters don't spin and the heads are "parked" on a region of the disk where contact with the surface won't cause damage.
Hard drives actually have "breather holes" in them. Small holes covered (internally) by filters (to keep out dust). This is necessary to equalize the air pressure between the inside and the outside of the drive. (See also "Air Circulation and Air Filtration")
On some drives (like an IBM laptop drive I'm looking at now) there is even a sticker next to the hole saying "Do not cover".
If you seal a drive, then changing temperature and altitude would create substantial pressure differentials between the inside and outside of the case. This would lead to drive failure (just like pressing on the upper cover while it's operating can cause failure), and maybe even physical deformation of the case.
I'm sure a drive manufacturer could design a specially-reinforced sealed case to work around this, but that would add significant weight, size and cost to the drive. If anybody makes such a drive, it would be intended only for extreme environments and would not be used in a typical consumer device.

So it looks like I'd be pushing my luck if I used it extensively at the home of my friends Tim and Linda who live at 10,500 feet in Alma, Colo., the highest town in the U.S.
Tim does a lot of computer consulting and I've not heard him speak of this kind of problem, so maybe you have to go farther up the mountain for it to become an issue.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth, an absolutely astounding blues guitarist and the best I've heard, will be at the Tall Stacks Festival in Cincinnati on Oct. 4.

Sent from my Treo

Monday, July 24, 2006

Home Again, Home Again

Ready to ride after breakfast at the Erie, Pa., Cracker Barrel.
I dropped my sidestand in my garage at 4:32 p.m.
It was the best-attended BMW MOA rally I've been to in 20 years - more than 9,000 riders there - which makes sense given the population density of the East Coast.
We packed wet tents and left in cold rain and fog Sunday morning, breaking into sunshine around the Ticonderoga bridge to New York and spending last night in Erie, Pa.
Again, my friends wanted to take backroads across northern Ohio and Indiana, so we parted company at Cleveland and I burned up the superslab running for home. I find I enjoy riding solo more than in a group - I can set the electronic cruise control and enjoy the scenery instead of having to keep my eyes on the bikes ahead of me.
Now I have to drag that wet tent out and set it up to dry so as to avoid losing it to mold or mildew.
The bike ran perfectly, but I have developed an intermittent fault in the electrical circuit powering my MotoLites driving lights. Even though the switch was in the "on" position throughout, both lights were dark when we left the rally. Then they both came on, then one, then the other. For most of the ride home, the left light was on but the right one was dark.
Oddly enough, Dave Bernhardt, who rode with me from Burlington to Cleveland, was having a similar malfunction with his MotoLites.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


The Grandstand stage at the 6 p.m. awards ceremony. It was mercifully short. Nobody I know won anything.

Can you believe nobody is selling BMW apparel at the BMW MOA rally?
I needed a replacement pair of BMW AirFlow summer gloves and ended up riding about 6 miles to Frank's BMW Motorcycles - the local BMW dealer. Nice ride anyway.
It's 2:30 p.m. and it's been raining steadily for about an hour and promises to continue through midnight.
So we're hoping for clear weather by the time we strike camp tomorrow and head for home.
More later.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Greetings from Vermont

I've been posting regularly with my Treo but none of the text or photos are getting onto the blog - I suspect it's a issue, because all of my other e-mails are getting through just fine.
So much for my grand plans to blog from the road.
At the moment, I'm at the BMW MOA rally in Burlington, Vt., having arrived yesterday about 4:15 p.m.
The ride was reasonably pleasant. I pulled into a service plaza on the New York Thruway south of Buffalo, NY, to find three Indianapolis BMW Club friends in the parking lot. I rode with them the rest of the day and we ended up sharing motel rooms in Seneca Falls, NY. They planned a more circuitous route for Thursday, so I split off and made best speed for Burlington.
I took NY Highway 8 through the Adirondacks and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun ride. The Essex ferry across Lake Champlain was a nice 30-minute ride, followed by a hellishly slow, hot slog through a 3.2-mile-long construction zone on Route 7 coming into Burlington. By the time I got through the construction, I was low on gas and even lower on bodily fluids. I gassed at a Gulf station and slammed down a quart of Gatorade before getting onto I-89 and zooming up to the Route 15 exit and on to the rally.

My Indy friends arrived a couple of hours later, called me on the cell phone and I directed them to the campsite I'd chosen for us.
I was sufficiently dehydrated that I ended up drinking 7 beers in the Beer Garden last night before staggering back to my tent.
So it was no surprise that I awoke with a headache this morning.
I plugged my cell phone into the bike's accessory outlet to charge and rode out for a breakfast at McDonald's, where I found a table next to a wall outlet for more phone charging.
I'm able to blog today only because there's a cyber cafe at the rally.
The weather is overcast and there is a 90% chance of rain forecast. I felt a few sprinkles as I rode back from breakfast, so it looks like I'll just spend the day hanging out and cruising the vendors.
The MOA issues a commemorative patch and pin for these rallies and some blockhead misspelled "Burlington" on the pin.
My friend Wayne, who with his wife Peggy, also rode to the BMW RA Rally in Boise, and the Top 'O the Rockies Rally in Paonia, Colo., the two previous weekends, showed me the commemorative t-shirt he got for the rally trifecta. It references the "MBW" Motorcycle Owners of America rally.
Absolutely incredible.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


(This is a post I sent from my Treo that never got through to Blogger, so I added it after the fact.)
I'm a the Dewitt Service Plaza on the NY Thruway a short distance west of Syracuse.
After parting company with Webb, Cindy & Dave, I headed east on the Thruway and pulled off at the first service plaza for a quick breakfast.
I knew I was in trouble as soon as the surly black woman behind the counter looked at me.
"Bacon, egg and cheese biscuit breakfast," I said.
"You want the meal?" she asked, correcting my failure to use McDonald's Official Terminology.
"Is that for here or to go?"
I'm standing in front of her in full motorcycle gear. It's glaringly obvious that I'm not in a car. Of fucking course it's for here.
"For here," I said.
"That's $5.28."
I stepped to the right with my empty tray so she could share her sunny personality with the next customer.
Presently, a girl behind the counter put a cup of coffee, sleeve of "hash browns" and a steak, egg and cheese bagel on my tray. Noticing the print on the wrapper, I peeked inside and confirmed it was, indeed, a bagel.
"I ordered a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit," I told Ms. Sunshine. "This is a bagel."
"You said bagel," she said belligerantly, oblivious to the principle that the customer is always right.
"No, I never say bagel," I replied, my anger rising.
"...we can change it..."
"No," I said, resigned to my bagel. "Forget it."
She also forgot to ask about cream and sweetener for the coffee - an omission I took to mean that they were available at the condiment station. No. And I'm fucking not going to ask her for anything now. So I'm eating my bagel and drinking my very hot very black coffee and looking forward to getting the hell out of here and back onto the road.

Sent from my Treo


I'm in a New York state of mind this morning and have just a few minutes for a quick entry before I have to roll out of an overpriced Microtel Inn.
I pulled in to a service area on the New York Thruway (I-90) about 30 miles south of Buffalo yesterday afternoon and noticed three BMWs in the parking lot. As I approached, I was startled to see Indianapolis BMW Club friends Webb & Cindy and Webb's brother Dave.
We rode together the rest of the day and finally went to ground in Seneca Falls. It was a 661-mile day for me - nothing spectacular, but the longest ride I've done this year.
They fancy a backroad route in to Burlington that will likely take all day and I'm keen to get to the rally and find a campsite in plenty of time for tonight's predicted rain.
I transmitted several photos from the road yesterday and none of them got posted to the blog. Damned!
Ok, I'm outta here.

Sent from my Treo

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I'm taking a lunch break at a McDonald's on I-90 northeast of Cleveland and about an hour from Erie, Pa., which is about an hour from Buffalo, NY.
Nice weather and no construction delays. At the risk of jinxing myself, I gotta say I'm making better time than I expected.

Sent from my Treo


It's 6:15 a.m. and it's an alarmingly steamy 70 degrees. The sky is beginning to lighten and the bike is packed and ready for Vermont.
I must be off.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


This is Sgt. Maj. Jeff McLochlin. He was an Army Ranger and a member of the Indiana National Guard and he was killed July 5 in Afghanistan. He's shown here in his uniform as a Plymouth, Ind., police officer.
I participated in a Patriot Guard Riders mission to support his funeral in Rochester, Ind., on Sunday.
It was beastly hot - a humid 94 degrees by the time we escorted the hearse from services at Rochester High School to the cemetery - but I'm glad I went because he and his family deserved the recognition.
Riding up to Rochester that morning, I found myself next to a young guy on a sportbike at a stoplight on U.S. 31 at the south edge of Kokomo.
The kid was pretty much at the other end of the motorcycling spectrum from me - sneakers, jeans, t-shirt, North Carolina baseball cap, no eye protection, no gloves, no jacket and an array of tattoos on his arms that made it clear he had spent a shitload of money trying to look stupid. Oh, and he was smoking a cigarette while riding.
I experienced enough painful spark burns from smoking in an open convertible when I was in my teens to tell me that smoking while riding a motorcycle involves several layers of idiocy.
I pulled up in the lane next to him on my '03 BMW K1200GT, wearing boots, gloves, BMW AirFlow jacket and a fullface Schuberth helmet. He glanced over and I nodded in greeting.
That was apparently all it took to trigger a flood of testosterone in the poor dope. When the light changed, he felt compelled to pull a wheelie and rocket up the road - a high-traffic commercial area lined with restaurants, motels and retail businesses.
I accelerated like a normal, rational rider and naturally, I caught up to him at the next light and the one after that. Each time, he whacked the throttle to stand his bike on its back wheel, startling the shit out of the car drivers around us. He did some highspeed weaving through traffic that was guarantee to alarm and enrage everyone around him before he finally made a right turn and sped off on a frontage road.
All I could do was shake my head in amazement.
I'm often tempted to offer to race kids like that - to Denver or Seattle. They disgrace motorcycling by using it as a form of masturbation. They also do real harm to the image of motorcycling.
That said, I'm taking a brief blogging break here before I plunge back into the frenzy of getting things squared away for my ride to the BMW MOA national rally this week in Burlington, Vt.
I plan to leave early tomorrow morning and hope to make it to somewhere east of Buffalo, N.Y. before I bag it tomorrow night. That should make for a relatively short ride on Thursday to the rally site.
This will be the first time I've ridden a motorcycle in the Northeast and I hope to be able to put my tires in every New England state, plus New Jersey, by the time the ride is over. That would let me boast that I've ridden in each of the 48 contiguous states.
I'll take my Treo and keyboard and will blog from the road whenever possible.
Now, it's off to the bank to shuffle some money around to cover bills that are due in the next week.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What a birthday!

Maria has been smugly secretive all week about my birthday present.
She took today off and would tell me only that we were going to Indianapolis on a mystery birthday mission.
First, we had to stop by the county clerk's office and hand over $1,200 in support money to be channeled to her ex for keeping their son. (See earlier rants.)
Then it was off to the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing.
Still clueless, I followed Maria's lead and we went up to the food court for a quick lunch.
Then we headed down to the mail level stores. I guessed we were headed for a clothing store, but secretly hoped I was wrong because I don't especially want any new clothes.
We had visited the Apple store on previous occasions to drool over the spectacular big screen monitors and she suggested we stop in again just to remind ourselves of how cool they are.
So we went into the store and were ogling the stuff - I'm a dedicated Windows user, but I have to admit there are some pretty cool things about Macs. I just don't like their operating system.
Next thing I know, Maria has buttonholed a salesguy and tells him, "I want to buy a 60-gig iPod,"
Holy shit! I never saw that coming.
She got me up to speed by telling me that my sons Sean and Steve were in on the surprise, explaining that Sean suggested the iPod and Steve signed on without hesitation.
So I picked out a black one, an AC charger, car charger and impact resistant black rubber case. Maria used my Treo camera to snap a photo of me being blown away with iPod in hand and I e-mailed it to Sean and Steve. I also phoned them, getting Sean's voicemail and having a delightful conversation with Steve during which granddaughter Lisa wished me a happy birthday. Next stop was an Office Depot where we picked up a USB 2.0 card reader so I can use the iPod for image storage with a digital camera.
Sean returned my call and gave me some cool iPod tips, including the advice not to buy the expensive Apple TV cord, since a cheaper standard cord works just as well - they're just not color coded the same.
I spent most of the afternoon and evening loading music and finally hung it up with 825 songs aboard - hardly scrating the surface of the 15,000-song capacity.
To say I was stunned would be a serious understatement.
Damn fine way to turn 61.

On this date in 1945

...The team of scientists and engineers headed by Robert Oppenheimer hoisted the world's first atomic bomb to the top of a 100-foot steel tower in the New Mexico desert, two days prior to detonating it.
The USS South Dakota became the first U.S. warship in WWII to shell the Japanese homeland.
And I was born.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sweating with the PGR

I was short on excuses when I woke up this morning, so I rode over to Sharpsville for a Patriot Guard Rider mission.
The occasion was the funeral of Matt Thompson, a member of the Tipton County Sheriff's Department and a candidate for sheriff in the November election.
Thompson was killed last weekend in a motorcycle-van collision. And, yes, he was wearing a helmet but got killed anyway.
I rolled out about 8:10 a.m. in humid thick fog and spent a lot of time wiping the moisture off of my visor.
I got to the site - the Tri-Central High School parking lot - in plenty of time and volunteered to be part of the flag detail, holding an American flag near the school entrance for about an hour while mourners and guests filed in. I had misjudged the weather and was wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt commemorating the 2004 BMWMOA national rally in Spokane.
The sky was partly cloudy and the atmosphere was very soupy with only an occasional breeze, so we sweltered as we stood at parade rest.
There were about 60 of us PGR types there and we were told that the widow wanted us right behind her car.
Unfortunately, things got crossed up and the PGR contingent ended up falling in behind about 100 other motorcyclists who had shown up.
We rode the 6 miles south to the Tipton County Jail, and then began a ride of 8 miles or so to the cemetery at Windfall.
It was kind of a trip riding through Tipton under these circumstances, since that's where I began my career in newspapers 40 years ago this fall.
The old Tipton Tribune building is gone and a new police and fire headquarters stands in its place. I'm not sure where the newspaper office is now.
By the time we got to the McDonald's on the east edge of town, it was about 90 degrees and I was in desperate need of a restroom, so I peeled off and rode south on Ind. 19 to Cicero.
That's where I am now, blogging from a McDonald's and finishing my lunch.
An over-zealous McFlunky just tried to clear my table and take my tray, but I'm not done with my fries. Take a hike, kid.
Oh, by the way.
The hearse was a cheesy looking affair pulled by a Harley-Davidson that had been converted from 2 wheels to 3. Most of my H-D riding companions thought it was way cool.

Sent from my Treo

A Picture Share!

A Harley hearse. Good grief.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More Photoshop Phun

I had to drive up to Lafayette to deposit a check, so I stopped by the Barnes & Noble to browse through some Photoshop technique books and have a mocha frappuccino.
I found a couple of tricks that looked useful, but I didn't feel like paying $29.95 + tax for a book, so I whipped out my Treo and fold-out keyboard, copied the instructions and e-mailed them to myself.
This one is adapted from an example of a swan with its head and beak overlapping the right side of the frame with a drop shadow.
Cool, huh?

Monday, July 10, 2006


Maybe it's because we're the smallest state west of the Alleghenies or maybe we just have this thing about Indiana, but Hoosiers (and we can't understand why that term is a perjorative for some people) have an inordinate pride in their home state.
So, small wonder that the movie Hoosiers is a staple in every Indiana video collection.
This is your classic David vs. Goliath tale based on a true story that's at the core of Indiana basketball mythology - the magic year of 1954 in which tiny Milan (pronounced MILE-un, not like the city in Italy) in southern Indiana went all the way to the Indiana State High School Basketball Finals and emerged state champ.
I grew up in small town Indiana in the '50s. The characters, the places, the fervor surrounding the local basketball team are instantly recognizable and dead-on. These are my people and my places and the filmmakers got it exactly right.
The opening scenes showing Gene Hackman driving through the Indiana countryside probably don't mean much to folks from outside Indiana and the midwest, but they almost bring a tear to my eye.
As a side note, there's a little white country church where Hackman pauses to get his bearings. It stood at a crossroads in Boone County just northwest of Indianapolis. It was one of several churches that went up in flames in the late 1990s at the hands of a church arsonist. It's part of the local lore.
As far as the characters go, Hackman did a credible job, but the real star of this film is Dennis Hopper. Barbara Hershey's character is an unwanted digression from the plot line and adds nothing of value to the film.
And how many people realize the heart attack-prone principal of Hickory High, Sheb Wooley, is the guy who had a hit in the late '50s with the novelty record "One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater?"
Also, for those with home theater sound systems, the Dolby Surround Sound on the DVD is spectacular. The stereo imaging really makes the picture come alive.
As a footnote, my friend Scott Miley, a reporter for The Indianapolis Star at the time the film was made, has a bit part in which he plays a newspaper reporter and delivers the memorable line, "How'dja do it, coach?" He still gets a royalty check for a dollar or two evertime Hoosiers is shown on TV.
If you like small town stories where the underdog triumphs, this is your kind of movie. You don't have to be from Indiana to love Hoosiers.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Phun With Photoshop

I used to think these Photoshop tricks were cheesy, but then I learned how to do some of them for inclusion in the wedding albums we do for clients and now I think they can be cool.
We just booked a wedding for Oct. 7. The bride found us online, which makes it the first non-referral wedding we've booked.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fashion model Lisa

Children and sewing are two of Maria's favorite things, so it's only natural that she should make things for our granddaughter Lisa.
The most recent project was a sundress with a blue hat and matching bloomers.
Here's a photo my son Steve shot the other day of Lisa in dress and hat, sans bloomers, on the deck behind their home.
Steve's comment about the outfit: Another masterpiece! She won’t take it off.
Naturally, that made Maria's day.
She's collecting more fabric and patterns and her Bernina is getting a vacation from quilting.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Selling the old homestead

I'm going to sell my rental property.
I'm tired of being a landlord - the role never suited me - and I would rather have the cash to invest in our place here at Pearl's End.
The house in question is a three-bedroom frame home on a quiet street on the far eastside of Delphi, Ind.
It's the home where I did most of my growing up. We moved into it in the spring of my third grade year (April of 1954) and I lived there until I went off to college in September of 1963. My parents lived there until their death - dad in November 1997 and mom (seen here just to the left of her Buick) in October 2000.
I tried to sell it during the first six months of 2001, but got no offers despite the low appraised value of $92,500.
I then hired the Realtor as a property manager and turned it into a rental property.
Go back to my archives to read about the tenant from hell who was my first renter.
The current tenant is a single mother with a young son and she's been extremely low maintenance and pays her rent on time.
When the lease came up for renewal last year, I offered to sell the house to her at the appraised value, even though I believed the value had increased since the appraisal was made. I did the math and showed her how she could save between $200 and $300 a month with a mortgage, compared with her current rent, and I explained how she would also be able to deduct all of her mortgage interest on her income taxes and how she would be building equity, rather than just throwing away $750 a month.
But she declined and opted to continue as a renter.
This time, I'm clearer about my objectives and will tell her I have decided to sell the house. I'll tell her I would prefer to sell it to her because she seems to like it there and I think she's a good fit for the place. But whether she buys it or not, I'm going to sell it.
If someone else buys it, they may choose to use it as a rental property and keep her as a tenant or they may want to use it as their primary home.
But the bottom line is, she'll have to become a homeowner or move.
So what will I do with the proceeds?
I plan to raze the two crappy, dilapidated garages we have - one of which was illegally built in an alley by the previous owners - and erect a two- or three-car structure with an upstairs photo studio/office. I'll also rip out the rotting wooden deck between the house and the garage site and put in a concrete patio surrounded by a privacy fence.
That just for openers. I'm still chewing on other possibilities.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pete repeat

Pete is home with his family again after 43 hours of roaming.
We searched Sunday night and much of yesterday without success. I mentioned Pete's disappearance in an e-mail to my friend Skip and he and his wife Gloria insisted on driving up this morning to spend their Fourth of July looking for the pup.
We equipped ourselves with two-way radios and binoculars and set out in separate cars. Maria and I patrolled the south half of town and Skip and Gloria took the north half.
A little after 11 a.m., I decided to stop by the house to use the bathroom. Before we could get out of the door, Maria's mother called and while they were talking, I glanced at our caller ID box to see if anyone else had called.
I noticed a call logged in at 11:02 a.m. from someone here in town who I don't know and suspected it might be about Pete. As soon as the line was free, I checked voicemail and found a message from a guy who lives five blocks north of us saying our dog Pete was on his porch.
I called him, verified Pete was still there and we sped to the guy's home where we found a very excited, burr-encrusted Pete.
Maria shot this photo when I picked Pete up to carry him to our car.
Pete's only ID is a rabies vaccination tag from the local vet and a tag from Frontline flea treatment that has a serial number keyed to
The guy said his wife got the information from Pete's tag and they must have looked him up online because the guy called him Pete before I even mentioned the dog's name.
What a great program. What great neighbors.
Maria is baking a batch of fudge brownies to take to the couple who made our day.
And we took Skip and Gloria to lunch to thank them for their efforts.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Grumpy Old Man Rant #4,942

My doctor put me on a once-daily diabetes drug called Actos last December and my Caremark prescription insurance has covered it every month when I go to the local pharmacy for a refill.
Until today.
I took my last Actos yesterday.
Today, the pharmacist informed me that Caremark will no longer pay for Actos refills at the drugstore level. From now on, I have to get it in 90-day quantities by mail from Caremark.
This is what they did with a couple of other drugs and in both cases the mail-order arrangement represented a fairly substantial savings.
My complaint is that in none of these three cases did they give me advance warning. No e-mail or even a notification to the pharmacist saying, "This is your last pharmacy refill. After this, you have to go mail-order."
No, they just shut the client off with no advance notice.
And, since I've switched doctors in the past month and my new doc refuses to phone prescriptions in for mail-order, I have to snail-mail his prescription to Caremark and wait for them to snail-mail my Actos to me, which involves a turnaround of maybe a week or two.
In the meantime, I'm twisting in the wind.
Fortunately, I'm not sufficiently fucked up that this idiocy would put me into the hospital, but it would serve the morons right if their policy resulted in them having to pick up the tab for an expensive ER visit or hospitalization.

Time to say Thanks

It was 20 years ago this month that Tim and Linda Balough set off the Big Bang that expanded my motorcycling universe.
They invited me to ride along on to the BMW MOA national rally at Laguna Seca racetrack near Monterey, Calif.
I can remember every road and every stop we made on that trip.
They introduced me to a style of motorcycle touring that's light years away from what I would have learned from Muthuh - earplugs, big mileage and big smileage days and, of course, no beer stops along the way.
Still luminous in my mind are:
The rainy pre-dawn ride out of Russell, Kans.
My first mountain ride - an after-dinner jaunt up from Idaho Springs to the Echo Lake Lodge and the flanks of Mount Evans
The late-afternoon ride along the Colorado River on a backdoor route to Moab, Utah.
Racing thunderstorms across the Utah desert
A 120-mph Autobahn-style romp across Nevada on U.S. 50
My first ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur
Riding through dense fog along Monterey Bay on the way back to Laguna Seca from San Francisco
Crossing California's Central Valley in 100+ degree heat as I watched the odometer on my '81 R100RS roll over 30,000 miles
Staring death in the face when a moron in a pickup pulling a horse trailer blocked both lanes of the highway south of Reno as Linda and I approached at 80+ mph. Thank God for the MSF course and its braking training
My introduction to KOA camping at Elko, Nev.
Learning about U.S. 36 as a pleasant alternative route across Kansas

Up to that point, the only touring I had done was a couple of two-up short jaunts to Michigan and a little loop through southern Ontario - in at Windsor, out at Sarnia. That 5,000+ mile ride with Tim and Linda was a college education in motorcycle touring and a mind-expanding experience. It's not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. It showed me I could aspire to the continent-spanning travels that made the Baloughs and guys like Wayne Garrison stand out as some kind of BMW motorcycle gods. It gave me the confidence in myself and my bike to realize I could ride anywhere and anytime. It also gave me the confidence to expand other areas of my life and to throw off limitations and fears that I had unconsciously picked up from my parents and others.
I owe much of the good parts of my life over the past two decades to Tim and Linda and what they taught me by word and example on that trip.
I've put more than a quarter-million miles in my mirrors since then, but that trip remains the benchmark against which all of my subsequent travels have been measured.

Thanks Tim. Thanks Linda. And thanks to everyone who's shared a ride with me since.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A tip for Brides

Note to brides:
If you have enough class to hire a real photographer, for God's sake don't put a bunch of disposable cameras on the tables at your reception.
Because the pictures you get back from your wedding guests are going to be 99% crap and it encourages your guests to interfere with the work of the official photographer(s).
We have a clause in our wedding photography contract that says:
It is understood that no other photographer, amateur or professional, shall be allowed to photograph at the wedding or reception while... (we are) working, and that any breach of this agreement will constitute a reason for non-completion of the job with no liability to... (us) and loss of initial deposit by the signing party.
We have yet to invoke this clause and walk out on a job, but as our experience in the business grows, we are increasingly aware of the importance of this understanding.
When you put disposable cameras on the tables there is a very high probability that they will fall into the hands of children who will use them to annoy other guests and get in the way of the wedding photographer(s) you paid anywhere from $500 to $3,000 or more. These cameras will cost you anywhere from $3.50 to $15 each and you will be lucky to get 5 photos from your guests that you'll want printed.
And there are few things more infuriating to a professional wedding photographer than an aunt or uncle or other guest jumping in to commandeer a set-up shot or, even worse, blocking the official photographer's shot at a critical point, like the bouquet toss or the cake cutting or a spontaneous emotional moment.
Once that moment is lost, it can't be recaptured and I can guarantee you that Uncle Fred's point-and-shoot photo will never be as good as the one Maria or I would shoot.