Friday, August 31, 2007

Plinking at 13,000 feet

Four of us hauled Tim's arsenal up the mountain to a remote bowl for a little target practice this morning.
Tim's pickup truck was loaded with about a dozen water-filled gallon milk jugs and some wooden targets that we arrayed in a small depression where there was absolutely no chance of any stray shots hurting anyone.
We were shooting at a range of about 25-30 yards and I was surprised that I could hit anything at that range with Tim's .38 special. The real revelation came when he handed me his Taurus .44 Magnum revolver. Suddenly, I was hitting my target about 4 out of 5 times and the results on the plastic milk jugs were spectacular. The Magnum is kind of unwieldy for a concealed carry personal sidearm, but it's a freaking cannon.
Tim also brought along a 12 gauge shotgun and I was reminded once again how painful it can be to shoot one of those things. I was done after two shots. All I remember about it was noise and shoulder pain.
We went down to Fairplay for lunch and I took the opportunity to exchange a denim shirt from the Colorado Mountain Hat Co. They make really high quality cowboy hats - Maria gave me one for Christmas a couple of years ago - and we stopped in to do some hat shopping when we were here last October. We bought a couple of CMHC embroidered long-sleeved denim shirts, but discovered that one of them had short sleeves when we finally opened the shopping bag at home. Maria mailed the shirt to me this week and the exchange was made without hesitation by the co-owner.

Steve - Same Place

My son Steve on the Trail Ridge Road in the late '90s - that trip was in my Honda del Sol. I believe we did the scary parts with the top off.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Me (left), Harold (right)

On the Trail Ridge Road. Taken by an obliging tourist.

Harold and I did a little 300-mile day ride up to Rocky Mountain National Park today. The weather was dead solid perfect. The ranger at the west portal let us both in on Harold's Golden Eagle pass, so the only money I spent in the park was $1.44 for an apple and a granola bar at the Trail Ridge Road visitors center. There was lots of construction on the upper levels of the road and I was reminded once more of how much heights bother me. There were several places where the edge of the road seemed to crumble off into infinity and I had to keep reminding myself that it's just a road and I'm still on solid ground.
We had a late lunch at a little cafe on the south end of Estes Park and Harold took the lead, following a route generated by his Garmin GPS. It may very well have been the fastest route, but I was surprised and a little alarmed to find us working our way through back streets in Boulder, having gone considerably farther east that I expected.
We picked up I-70 just west of Denver and had clear sailing all the way back to Alma.


Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Harold Patterson and I out for a little jaunt above the treeline.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The saga continues

I'm back at Chateau Balough in Alma. The rain is back, the thunder is booming across the valley and I have a tumbler of Cutty Sark at my side.
The ride down to Denver was remarkably pleasant this morning. It was sunny and traffic was light and the Triumph Bonneville was actually fun to ride. It's a very basic old school motorcycle, complete with a manual choke and a fuel petcock and it was a whole lot more fun to ride knowing I didn't have far to go.
When I got to Foothills BMW, Alan told me the technician had taken my bike out for a test ride - a good sign and an indication that I'd be out of there soon.
I got a cup of coffee and hung out, trying not to nurse a grudge over having to wait overnight in a fleabag motel to get my bike work done.
When he finally tallied up the bill, Alan apologized again for the hassle. I rather pointedly asserted that 6 p.m., when the doors are being locked and the lights are turned out in the showroom is a hell of a time to find out that my bike was being kept overnight and I had to figure out where to crash and how to get there. I also noted that he had failed to communicate with the technician and that, if he had, things might have turned out better.
He went over the bill and showed me where he had deleted the labor charge for checking out my clutch. Then he asked what else he could do to make me happy. I suggested he could compensate me for my $45 motel bill, so he fiddled with the labor charges and backed that amount out of the bill.
I told him that I've spent enough time in bike shops to know that guys like him have to put up with a lot of crap from jerks and raging assholes and that I've always striven to not be that kind of customer. He seemed to appreciate my patience and forbearance and I came away feeling like they had done what they could to make it right with me. So I guess I can wear the Foothills BMW/Triumph T-shirt I bought without any remorse.
I rode back up to I-70 and headed into the mountains, enjoying the ride and being mindful that my new front tire might be a little slippery because of the release compound the manufacturers use to get the tires out of the molds. I always take it easy for the first 100 miles or so on a new tire to scrub it in.
As I approached Georgetown, I saw rain-slick pavement a mile ahead near the exit. I encountered the rain at the foot of the exit ramp and quickly rode under the canopy of a gas station where I topped off the tank and went inside for a gas station hot dog. A couple of helmetless Harley riders from Columbus, Ohio rode in and I chatted with them while we waited for the rain to stop. They were headed west into Utah and then down to Monument Valley, so I recommended Goulding's lodge and campgrounds at the north end of the valley.
I rode back through the Eisenhower Tunnel - I noticed yesterday that the eastbound lanes are actually through the Johnson Tunnel, which was completed in 1979 - six years after the Ike. I exited at Silverthorne, stopped at a coffee shop for a cafe mocha and then headed south on U.S. 6 to Swan Mountain Road and over to Colo. 9.
I ran into heavy rain as I started up Hoosier Pass, then rode through slushy hail on the highway about halfway down the pass. Not ready to quit for the day, I rode on to Fairplay for a dish of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
I was the only customer in the ice cream store as I hunkered down to enjoy my treat amid a noisy downpour and Miles Davis's "All Blues" album on the store stereo.
The rain stopped by the time I had finished, so I rode back to Alma and made it to the Baloughs' place a few minutes before the next storm rolled through.
I woke up this morning prepared to do battle at Foothills and am relieved that I didn't have to. Now I can enjoy the rest of the week, secure in the knowledge that I have good tires and working driving lights.


Here's the loaner bike Alan Attila gave me last evening to ride about 100 miles up to the highest town in the U.S. In the dark and cold. Then I was expected to ride it back in the brisk morning air.
And, there was always the risk of rain...
I'll blog the rest of this minisaga when I get back to Alma and have a proper keyboard, instead of thumb-typing on my Treo smartphone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Classy joint. Not.

I stayed here 21 years ago. It's not improved. Dirty carpet, musty smell, previous occupant's used washcloth on the shower curtain rod.


Alan Anttila, the service writer at Foothills BMW, completely misled me on how much time it would take to finish the work on my MotoLights wiring harness.
At 3 p.m., he estimated it would take another hour. I started getting concerned around 5 p.m. I went to the service desk and saw him struggling to help four or five guys who were lined up. So I went back to the waiting area and waited. As the 6 p.m. Closing time neared, I went outside and peered into the service department where I could see my bike on a lift, with several body panels lying on the floor.
Finally, I was able to ask Alan what was going on. He consulted with the technician and reported the guy needed another couple of hours.
No. Tomorrow.
But I'm staying up in the mountains in Alma. That's 100 miles away.
I had mentioned this detail to him when he filled out the work order, so it shouldn't have been a surprise.
He fumbled around and finally offered me a loaner bike to ride to Alma and back.
The bike? An unfaired Triumph Bonneville with no bags to carry my stuff. I was stunned. By now, it was about 6:30 and the sun was going down. It would be pitch dark and very cold by the time I flogged this underpowered little piece of shit up to Alma.
So I got onto I-70 and rode about 30 miles west to Idaho Springs where I got a $45 room in the Peoriana Inn motel, a delapidated joint that was substandard when Tim and Linda and I stayed there on the way home from California in July 1986.
I bought a sixpack of beer and had a light dinner at McDonald's and settled in for the night.
This is, to say the least, unacceptable and I will have words with the manager of Foothills tomorrow morning.

Still waiting...

Looks like I'll be late for dinner.

MotoLight fix

I'm still at the BMW dealer in Denver, burning shop time at a rate of $89 an hour, but it looks like we've gotten to the bottom of a problem that was making me crazy.
I had Revard BMW in Indy install caliper-mounted MotoLights driving lights about 4 years ago.
Last summer, my riding companions told me they weren't staying on consistently.
Earlier this summer I noticed them blink off one evening when I hit a bump while riding home.
My riding mates observed the same on/off stuff en route to Colorado.
So I asked the service guys here at Foothills to have a go at it.
The service writer just reported that an electrical connection under the gas tank had worn off insulation, causing the problem. They're replacing the quick-disconnect link with a hardwired solder connection sealed in shrink tape, which they believe will guarantee a good solid permanent fix.
It won't be cheap, but it will be worth it in terms of safety and peace of mind.
What a relief!

The Shoes Sisters

Not the Blues Brothers.

Sean on my XM

Riding down to Denver this morning, my XM radio beeped to alert me of a song from my request list. It was Australia from the Shins' album that my son Sean engineered.
Sure is cool to be cruising down a canyon highway in Colorado, listening to my son's work on satellite radio.
Here's the Georgetown rest area where I made a restroom stop.

What diet?

Monday afternoon at our favorite ice cream place. Fairplay, Colo.


Hanging out in the luxurious customer lounge at Foothills BMW - cushy armchairs, coffee, cookies, fruit, internet access and stacks of motorcycle magazines.
Lunch was a burrito from Qdoba up the street.

Foothills BMW

I rode down to Denver this morning for a new front tire and an oil change. They're also troubleshooting my intermittent MotoLights problem and checking my clutch lever adjustment.
It's a very well put-together BMW-Triumph operation with lots of accessories and apparel. I bought a pair of Gore-Tex summer gloves to replace the pair that Pete ravaged. He chewed the Gore-Tex lining out of the right glove. His cuteness saved his life again...

Hoosier bike, Hoosier Pass

I shot this Monday afternoon when it occurred this may be my last time here as an Indiana resident.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Buying a new CamelBak to replace the one I couldn't find when packing.


We were cruising west on U.S. 36 about 3 miles east of Cope in the flatlands of eastern Colorado about noon yesterday when we met a Colorado state trooper headed the other way.
His car had one of the new low profile light bars, so we didn't realize he was a cop in time to slow from our 80mph cruising speed to the legal limit of 65.
Harold Patterson was in the lead, then John Rode, me, and Bob Stewart.
We all watched in our rearview mirrors as he hit his brakes, did a U-turn and began to pace us at our now-legal speed. After a few seconds, he hit his red-and-blue flashers and Bob and I pulled over as he chased Harold and John down.
We pulled stopped behind his car, pulled off our helmets and prepared to dig under our seats for our registrations.
I think he was pleased that we were so cooperative and surprised to find the youngest of these speeding sport tourers (me) was 62.
He took our licenses and retired to his car where he presumably checked to see if any of us has outstanding warrants.
He was all smiles throughout and let us off with a verbal warning. Maybe we reminded him of his dad - or his grandfather.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On the road

Saturdayafternoon lunch at Chillicothe, Mo. A guy at the gas pumps seemed astonished that we'd come all the way from Indy in one day. Too bad he didn't see us 300 miles farther west when we stopped for the night.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Last-minute packing thoughts

It's 8:25 p.m. on Friday and I'm still at the newspaper office.
In 12 hours, I expect to be somewhere in Illinois, well on my way to a week in the Colorado high country with my BMW motorcycle friends.
And, of course, I'm not packed. I made a start on it earlier today, but my stuff is strung out on our bed and in a couple of other rooms.
I feel mildly guilty taking off for a week on the bike when we need to be getting our house ready to sell, but I've done pitifully little riding this year and this ride is long overdue.
My plan is to rendezvous with Maria in Arkansas on my way back, where we'll spend a couple of days house-hunting. I connected with a couple who are BMW Motorcycle Owners of America members, i.e. instant friends, by phone this week and they graciously offered storage space for my bike. So I'll leave the bike with them and ride home with Maria in the Subaru, secure in the knowledge that the first of our four vehicles is where it needs to be.
I'm supposed to meet my three riding companions at 7:15 a.m. tomorrow at the Ind. 32 interchange on I-74. It's raining like a sonofabitch here tonight and I fervently hope it will clear off by tomorrow morning. I hate starting a long ride in the rain.
I will, of course, blog from the road whenever possible. I still haven't decided whether to take a Nikon D100 digital SLR with me. It's a lot of camera to haul around and I suspect I can be just as happy with my Treo cell phone camera and my little 35mm (Film!) point-and-shoot. After all, I can just scan the negs when I get home. I still have a bunch of film left over from before we went digital and I might as well burn it up.

Still worth 5 stars!

The Trombones Inc. is one of my all-time favorite jazz albums. I bought it on vinyl when I was 13 years old and it knocked my socks off.
Ever since CDs were introduced - and that would be 25 years ago this month - I've been looking for a CD version of this album.
I had all but given up ever hearing it again, my vinyl copy having been destroyed in a flood, until I did a routine check for it last week on and discovered it had been reissued. My copy arrived today and I am ecstatic!
Old Devil Moon was always my favorite track and it still blows me away.
I had worried that the CD version, if there ever was one, might be poorly engineered or recorded from an LP instead of from the original source material. I needn't have worried.
The sound is crisp, punchy and vital and far better than I remember from the LP.
And if that weren't enough, they've added a track that wasn't on the original album.
Forty-nine years is a long time to wait for something like this, but now that it's here, I can tell you it was worth the wait.
I leave for a motorcycle trip to the Colorado high country tomorrow morning and it will be great to have this album in my iPod.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The official state flag of Arkansas was chosen in a design contest in 1913; the winner was Miss Willie Kavanaugh Hocker of Wabbaseka. The flag's design was finalized in 1926.
The diamond shapes in the center represent the diamond gemstone, because Arkansas is the only state in the USA where diamonds have been found. Since Arkansas was the twenty-fifth state to join the Union, there are 25 white stars around the diamond. The three blue stars in the lower part of the center represent Spain, France and the United States, the countries that have ruled Arkansas. The blue star in the upper center represents the Confederacy, of which Arkansas was a member.
Arkansas was the 25th state in the USA; it was admitted in 1836.

So what?
Well, because we're moving to Arkansas.
Maria starts work Sept. 17 as managing editor of a 26,000-circulation daily newspaper in northeastern Arkansas.
So now we have to hustle to sell our house in Thorntown, Ind., and find a suitable home in Arkansas.
This is a huge leap of faith for me, a guy who worked for the same company almost all of his adult life (34 years) and never lived outside of Indiana - unless you count a month in 1971 in Arcata, Calif., for a Transcendental Meditation teacher training course and 41 days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, for U.S. Air Force basic training.
But what the hell? I'm up for an adventure and the new job sounds like a great opportunity for Maria with a company that appears to be well-run with a bright future.
The downside? Other than the sheer hassle of moving all of our stuff, we're leaving Maria's whole family and a small group of really wonderful friends. We will, of course, do everything in our power to lure some of those friends to Arkansas. The rest will just have to come to visit.
I connected last night with some BMW motorcycle riders who became instant friends.
I'm leaving for a week with Indianapolis BMW Club friends in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on Saturday morning. My plan is to ride to Akansas from Colorado, connect with Maria, spend a couple of days house-hunting and leave my bike with our new BMW friends. I'll drive home with Maria in the Subaru, thereby solving the problem of getting one of our vehicles in place in Arkansas.
Things seem to be falling into place with startling ease, giving us the impression this was meant to be. I hope so. We shall see.


Ironically, I had already ordered my PayPal security key fob when my account got hacked late last week. It arrived in today's mail and I activated it immediately.
The device generates a six-digit key every 30 seconds that you append to your regular PayPal password, adding a new layer of security to your account.
It also works with Ebay and, since it was created in cooperation with VeriSign, it will probably be adopted by many other online vendors.
You can see the demo for it here. PayPal charges a modest $5 for it, reasoning that people will value it more if they charge for it than if they just gave it away.
As far as my hacking experience goes, PayPal notified me that all four transactions had been reversed/voided about 14 hours after I filed a report with them.
Getting the money back into my checking account will take longer. The first $700 rolled into my PayPal account this morning and I immediately transferred it to my checking account, but the actual movement of funds will likely take 3-4 business days.
It was all a hassle, but we're working through it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Getting it fixed

PayPal has slammed the door on yesterday's two bogus transactions and they're presumably working to straighten out the $660 and $40 thefts from Friday.
So far, I'm impressed by their response.
The transactions yesterday involved a legitimate seller, who was ready to ship us a couple of Canon cameras until PayPal contacted her and told her someone else had snagged the funds she thought she was getting from me.
I'm still mystified about how my account got hacked. The guys at PayPal may be able to tell me, but I rather doubt if they will.
As long as I get my money back, I'll be satisfied.
Maybe I should turn PayPal loose on George, the disappearing garage contractor.

PayPal ripoff

When I synched my Quicken software with my bank accounts this morning, I noticed some unauthorized PayPal charges.
I logged into my PayPal account and discovered 4 such transactions - 2 on Friday and 2 yesterday - totaling more than $1,500.
(Presumably, I bought a couple of Canon digital SLRs, which is highly unlikely since we're all Nikon.)
I immediately changed my PayPal password and disputed the claims.
I also changed passwords on several other online accounts and am not sitting at the bank to discuss further countermeasures.
I guess I'm glad this happened this week and not next week when I'll be in Colorado.
This must be my year to get ripped off.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why was I here?

I was here the night of Aug. 10-11. Guess why.
I can reveal all on Wednesday evening.

Now it can be told. We made a flying trip to northeast Arkansas so Maria could have face-to-face interviews with the publisher, editor and staff of the newspaper that was interested in hiring her. She got the job offer five days later and, after chewing on it overnight and discussing it the next morning in the hot tub - where we do some of our best thinking - decided to accept.
Now, we're off to Arkansas.

On Mortality

I'm writing obits at the newspaper this afternoon and all three that I've written are for people younger than I am.
We're talking about ages 43, 49 and 53. I (for the record) am a very young 62.
I noticed that the family of the 43-year-old guy are asking for memorial contributions for the Damien Cener in Indianapolis, which is a support group for AIDS patients, so that probably explains his early departure from this life.
No such clues in the other two obits, so I'm left with the nagging realization that I'm probably closer to the end and the beginning.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

We win again!

We won again at BW3 trivia. Ruthie is our older dog.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The horror, the horror

Here's a worker at the McDonald's at U.S. 231 and I-74 on the north side of Crawfordsville, Ind., photographed with my cell phone on Wednesday morning.
She's making salads with her bare hands! No gloves. Just skin on lettuce, cheese and tomatoes.
We called the county health department and they send out an inspector. More as it develops.
I saw an employee of the Crawfordsville Arni's handling salad ingredients with bare hands last night.
I think I'm off of restaurant salads for awhile.


Shari Harrington at the county health department e-mailed: Thank you for letting us know about this problem. After we talked I sent Lynette up to the McDonald’s North and she spoke with them and rendered action of throwing away salads made with bare hand contact.

So there.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tracked to his lair

Maria's son, who worked a couple of weeks this spring for George, our disappearing garage contractor, guided us to George's house on Indianapolis' southwestside yesterday on the way home from Bloomington.
This is the guy who vanished after cashing our check for $14,920 in building materials.
More to come...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Happy anniverary, Hiroshima. Take note, Islamofascists.

Today was the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
This is me thanking Gen. Paul Tibbetts, who flew the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped that bomb and, arguably, won World War II.
Maybe the dirtbags of the world, who seek our destruction, need to be reminded from time to time that we are the only people in the world to use nuclear weapons.
And we did it not once, but twice.
Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo, a Congressman from Colorado, said last week the best way to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. is to threaten to retaliate by bombing Islamic holy sites.
Tancredo told about 30 people at a town hall meeting in Iowa that he believes such a terrorist attack could be imminent and that the U.S. needs to hurry up and think of a way to stop it.
“If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina,” Tancredo said at the Family Table restaurant.
“Because that’s the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do,” Tancredo said in comments recorded and posted on the Web site
That's something I've advocated since 9/11.
We're dealing with people who have the political and social sophistication of children, but all of the lethality of trained killers.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I feel like I've been running in sand - expending much effort for little gain - for the whole freaking summer.
It has now been three full months since we gave George, the disappearing contractor, a check for $14,920 to buy building materials for our hypothetical garage. A couple of weeks later, he stopped talking to us.
We've decided to sic the Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection guys on him, since they have a pretty good record of recovering money for citizens who are ripped off. And we were.
I'm starting to count down the days until the Indianapolis BMW Club's Colorado Chalet Week. Maria and I decided I need a long ride and I can't think of a more stimulating destination than our Tim and Linda's place in Alma, Colo., where a bunch of us Indy Club folks will hang out for the last week of August.
In the meantime, I'm working on the images from the July 14 wedding we shot. I burned them to a couple of sets of DVDs - one set for the couple and the other for the bride's parents, who picked up the tab for our work. I use printable DVDs and CDs, so as to deliver a unique and attractive set of disks with the bridal couple's names, date of the wedding, one of their photos and, of course, our business website url. When I fed the most recent set of disks through our Epson Stylus Photo R320, they came out with a decidedly magenta cast.
I tried to tweak the color balance with the printer software, but to no avail. Every test sheet I ran came out more magenta-skewed than the one before. I suspect the problem is the Office Max substitute ink cartridges I'm using - probably something wonky in the cartridge circuitry, since the sheets produced with the Epson diagnostic sofware come out spot-on.
It will cost about $80 to replace the six printer cartridges with genuine Epsons.
As luck would have it, I got the new issue of Shutterbug magazine this week and it contained a glowing review of the new Epson Stylus Photo R380 printer, which also prints CDs and DVDs and has much more sophisticated hardware and software than the four-year-old R320. AND the Epson site had it on sale for about $109. I discovered I could buy a brand new state-of-the-art DVD printer for only about $30 more than a set of ink cartridges for my obsolete model.
Needless to say, I ordered an R380 immediately and am now watching for the UPS guy to deliver it to my front porch.
The R320 will be relegated to the role of a black-and-white text printer and the R380 will become the default color printer.