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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How does a digital camera work - Part 3

In Part 1 we saw how millions of tiny bits of silver can make up an image. In Part 2 we explored color filters and their role in seeing some things and not others. Today let's take a baby step into the electronic world.

Everyone knows about photo-voltaic (solar) panels and how they generate power. Claims that they will save the planet are, of course, ridiculous since I found they couldn't even charge my mobile phone reliably. We would have to pave the planet with them to generate enough power for all our needs.

That rant aside, they do create a voltage when exposed to light. Best of all it is roughly proportional to the amount of light falling on them. That is, at high noon they produce some volts, at midnight on a moonless night they produce zero volts, and in between they produce some value between the two.

Ambient light like… Ambient light (lux) Photocell resistance (?) LDR + R (?) Current thru LDR+R Voltage across R
Moonlit night 1 lux 70 KΩ 71 KΩ 0.07 mA 0.1 V
Dark room 10 lux 10 KΩ 11 KΩ 0.45 mA 0.5 V
Dark overcast day / Bright room 100 lux 1.5 KΩ 2.5 KΩ 2 mA 2.0 V
Overcast day 1000 lux 300 Ω 1.3 KΩ 3.8 mA 3.8 V
Full daylight 10,000 lux 100 Ω 1.1 KΩ 4.5 mA 4.5 V
From Using a Photocell

If we took a photo cell and hooked it up to a meter we could see the voltage it produced. Then we could point it at things and see if they were bright or dark by looking at the meter. Not very practical since we could just look at the object we were pointing at but stick with me for a minute more.

Suppose you were blind and couldn't see visually. I could try to describe something but it would be very difficult. However, you do understand warm and cold from touch. You have a vocabulary for warm and cold. What if we were to translate what I saw into that warm/cold vocabulary so you could create a representation you could understand.

I might say "Upper left corner, cold zero. Upper right corner, warm 5. Lower left corner, warm  5. Lower right corner, hot 10". This would describe a box that was black, grey, and white.

Black Gray
Gray White

For more precision I would point my photo cell at the object to get exact readings to help my friend see the best image possible. To make an even better picture I could increase the locations I was pointing the photo cell at and get a better defined picture for her.

spac spac spac spac spac spac spac spac spac spac
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .

Can you now see a tree, a cloud, and a stream in a meadow?

Since I like my friend a lot and don't want her to be dependent on anyone I could hook the photocell directly to a small heating element and give it to her in a box. She could point it to anything she wanted and create her own vision of the surrounding world by putting her finger on the heating element.

Think about all this and I'll be back soon.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Monday, December 2, 2013

How does a digital camera work - Part 2

In the last post I talked about how a film image is composed of millions of bits of silver blocking the light so that what could be seen could be reproduced although as a light-for-dark negative image.

But what about colors? We see colors and know that color photographs exist, so how do they do that?

There are two ways to do it. One is reflected and one is transparent. Think of the first as looking at a painting using colored pigments and the second as looking through colored pieces of glass.

I'm going to talk about color in a very simplistic way. Remember those 3-D books and movies where you wore cheesy cardboard glasses (technical term - anaglyphic) with one blue lens and one red lens? The images on the screen or page were very confusing when viewed with the naked eye but jumped off the page through those lenses.

The principle is simple. The lens passed the color that was the same and blocked the color that was opposite. Thus, the red lens passed the red color which made it seem the same as the background but blocked the blue color which made it seem black. The blue lens did just the same but for the other color. That meant that left eye looked through the red lens and saw the blue (now black) image and the right eye looked through the blue lens and saw the red (now black) image. The brain interpreted these slightly different images as the same but at different distances (parallax).

Back to our film with millions of silver bits that can only produce black and white. If we were to coat some of the bits with a filter agent so they could only see red, then we could tell where the blue in the image was. The same would be true of yellow and blue filters. Combine red and blue to get purple, look across the color wheel and you see yellow. Just the red filter and you can see green. So imagine taking three pictures of the same scene, one each through a red, blue, and yellow filter. When looking through the three images laid on top of each other all of the colors would be recreated.

I cheated a bit here. The real colors are red, green, and blue but you get the idea (hopefully). The filters over the sensitive silver bits are what make the difference between the colors.

See you soon for how this applies to digital devices.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Friday, November 29, 2013

How does a digital camera work - Part 1

My dad asked me how a digital camera works the other day. He's a pretty smart guy and was once one of the leading industrial engineers in America. He was also a serious photographer in the film era.

Now, even he would admit that he's a little north of old and the rapid pace of technological change sometimes leaves him gasping as he tries to keep abreast of the latest developments. Oddly, this gives him a great perspective on the state of digital evolution. Instead of asking, "What's the latest? And where can I get it?" he asks "What's it good for? And what will it really do for me?"

So how does a digital camera work? What is a mega-pixel? And why do they come in so many shapes and sizes?

Today let's talk about analog photography. Which is to say film. Curiously, film photography is even more mysterious than digital photography. 

Film, as we would buy it from Kodak, is extremely fine bits of silver halide suspended in a gelatin layer that is spread on a clear plastic strip with holes punched down the sides. it's rolled up and put into little cartridges that you stick into a camera.

When a friend drops by and you want to take a snapshot you pull out the camera, point it at your friend, and press the button. The camera makes a quick adjustment for exposure before opening the shutter. The light enters through the lens and strikes the film. The process is a miniature version of the camera obscura or pinhole camera you might have played with when you were in school.

Now, this is where the mystical magic happens! When the light strikes the silver halide in the film something about it changes. What that change is nobody knows! It's been studied with x-rays, gamma rays, weighed, measured and still nobody knows. Some bit of quantum mechanics comes into play when the light strikes it but who knows what?

The answer comes when the film is developed. The silver halide that the light has fallen on turns to solid silver when the developer interacts with it. Those bits that received no light are not changed. The film is then put into a stop bath to neutralize the developer. This is followed by a swim in the fixer to wash away the undeveloped silver halide.

After the film has been rinsed and dried you have the familiar negative. Where the shirt your friend was wearing was white now it appears black in the negative because all of the silver halide in that area is now solid silver and blocks the light. Where she was wearing a dark hat now looks light because the silver halide was not developed and was washed away. So the light now passes through the film to look white. Thus, a negative is called that because it is the negative image of what you saw when you took the picture!

Enough for today - tomorrow we'll talk a bit about color. 

For today just remember that the image was created by millions of extremely tiny bits of silver halide reacting with the light to record the image of your friend.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Monday, October 7, 2013


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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mississippi River Trail

The route north was pretty relaxed since I had neither plans nor timetable. I was traveling north on Rt 1 in Illinois when I passed a sign that said "Wabash Cannonball Toll Bridge".  Since the song of the same name is a classic I decided to explore. This is what I found.

WTF!? As my history with water crossings on this trip was not real solid I decided not to attempt this crossing. However, on the way back through the town of St. Francisville I stopped at the post office. I inquired if the sign out on the road was an attempt at local humor in order to trick passing motorists. The woman behind the counter nearly passed her coffee through her nose laughing at that. When she regained her composure she told me that there was a sign a couple of blocks back that pointed to the bridge. Big sign out on the main road, tiny sign in town.

The Wabash Canonball Toll Bridge is in fact an old Wabash Railroad bridge converted to auto traffic. The rails have been removed and you drive on the old planks. This was a little nerve wracking since I was bouncing around on the uneven boards and the guard rail was just high enough to make sure I would tip over into the river below. Through the ties in the middle I could look down into the river but I was concentrating on staying on the planks and not on sightseeing.

On the other side were just pleasant roads through the farmland and quiet country lanes.

That was the essence of this part of the trip. It was no big thing. There was no Summit of Everest moment. Rather there was a multitude of small things that were a joy unto themselves.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Swimming in Tennessee

This is the camera shot from my handlebars on my first attempt at crossing creek #4. Obviously it did not go well.

The bike with luggage was too heavy to pickup so I had to leave it underwater while I disconnected the bags and carried them to the bank. Then I was able to pickup the bike but not able to push it to the shore. So I spent the next hour working on the bike in the middle of the creek to get it restarted. Finally, after getting it running I got it out of the water. However, the camp was behind me so I had to recross the creek to return to camp so I could flush the engine.

You might call this attempt at crossing rather timid but it all stayed vertical and the crossing was without incident. While not caught on film you can rest assured that I did the Happy Dance when I was safely across.

Many kudos to the Alpinestars Toucan boots that kept my feet dry through all of this. Even when completely under water! The best dual sport boots I've ever owned.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

TAT By The Numbers

While I'm trying to sort through the photos to pick out the best I thought I'd review some of the numbers from the trip

Days on the trip: 21
Days on the TAT: 1 1st attempt
4 2nd attempt
Miles on the trip: 4,739
Miles on the TAT 6 1st attempt
756 2nd attempt
ATK Prep 951
TransAlp Prep 968
Cash 700
Food 171
Gas 349
Lodging 542
Maintenance 895
Support 2,174

According to the total mileage, I made it to the west coast and had a great time. Well, I didn't make it to the Pacific Ocean but I did have a great time! The days and mileage reflect the fact that I lost focus when I took the bike swimming. I'll know better next time. As my friend Nate says, "Good judgement comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement."

The expenses are skewed by prepping two bikes instead of one. The cash, food, and lodging are all in line with my expectations for the entire trip. All the side trips and change of plans just put them in different places

Maintenance is inflated by the oil and filters to flush the water out of the engine. However, I had planned to get new tires midway into the trip so the total is not too far off. Knobbies just don't last the way street tires do.

Support is for the things I got for the trip but were reusable for other things. Items such as the Coyote bags and the SPOT tracker. I got a new tent for the trip but was reusing my camp stove and cook set from previous trips, an inventory for travel builds up over the years. It also includes the airfare that Southwest was gracious enough to credit to any future flight in the next 12 months.

The best money I spent in this category was for a pair of Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex boots. Definitely pricey but worth every penny in comfort and protection. In the hour and a half I was working on the bike in the middle of the stream my feet never got wet.

Take out the support and the bike prep and I could do it for ~$2,500. Now that the bike is ready I'll just have to give it another try.

Stay tuned for pictures in another day or two.

Make my day, tell a friend about this blog!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The last two days

Another picture of a train and the Transalp
I admit that I've been tardy in updating my trip info. The last two days after my previous post went quickly and when I arrived home on Friday, the 12th, there were many, many things to catch up on. Not the least of which was entering 287 credit card charges into Quicken.

Kinzua Bridge

The morning after the deluge was bright and warm. I got back onto the Ohio Turnpike to skirt Cleveland and then jumped on US 6 to cross Pennsylvania. If you've never taken this route you are missing one of America's best rides. Two lanes across the northern areas of the state takes you through some pretty areas of the Allegheny Plateau. It's a relaxed ride with plenty of curves and scenery to keep it interesting.

One of the best parts of traveling by motorcycle is that people just walk up to you and start talking. In a car you're anonymous but on a bike, dressed in your battle gear, you stand out as a traveler. Some people just want to tell you about when they had a motorcycle and used to ride but a lot of them want to hear your story and tell you about local points of interest you might enjoy. Such was the case in Smethport PA.

I had been thinking of stopping at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania but a local person suggested that I might enjoy visiting the Kinzua Bridge nearby. It meant a few miles of backtracking but he seemed enthusiastic so I jumped on the bike and turned it west. A good thing I did, it was a fascinating story. It was originally built of iron and then rebuilt in steel by taking down one pier at a time and replacing it from above with a new, pre-assembled pier. It's partially collapsed now but you can walk to the end of the remaining structure and look down through a glass floor at the gorge below. The fallen piers remain where they fell, all twisted and rusty.

From there it was back on the road to my friend Jay's home. He lives in a "modest" log cabin that he built himself. He single handedly fell and stripped the trees, cut them and moved them into place, and chalked the spaces to make a very nice abode that is the envy of everyone who visits.

Jay and his farm engine
In the morning Jay and I went to an antique tractor and farm equipment rally. Lots of tractors and gear that I would have missed had a local person not pointed the way. Jay was displaying his farm engine that he started up for me. As it is with most farm implements of the time, it is simplicity itself. The valve clearance is set to "approximately ¼ inch".

Leaving Jay I took US 6 to Scranton and then got on I-84 for an express trip east. There is nothing I haven't seen dozens of times before and I was ready to be home. A warm shower and sleeping in my own bed was looking good after 3 weeks on the road!

Tomorrow I'll post some videos and begin a wrap-up of the trip.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Unsafe at any speed

Today started off great. Sunshine and mild temperatures as I cruised to the east on US 20. At Cleveland I switched over to Interstate 80.
WHAM! What had been a couple of sprinkles here and there suddenly turned into a downpour. Gusty side winds were blowing me from lane to lane even though I was down to 40 miles an hour.
All I wanted to do was get to the next exit and get some place dry before I had an accident. Water was building up on the road and I didn't want to do any horizontal surfing.
I finally got to the exit and got major attitude from the toll taker when I handed her my soggy ticket. A mile away I found a motel and walked into the office dripping wet. All I wanted was a hot shower and dry bed.
On the TV the news program they said there was major flooding, hurricane warnings, and winds gusting to 60 miles per hour.
When I was riding to the motel the water was a foot deep across the road in places. Didn't I have this kind of problem the last time I try to go across country?
Well tomorrow looks better so I should get home soon. Tonight I'm eating Pop Tarts and Pepsi out of the vending machine. It's just another (water logged) adventure!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Planes Instead Of Pains

Took a day off today to get some feeling back in my backside and some circulation in my legs.
The USAF National Museum has virtually every plane used by the Air Force and the Army Air Corps since the Wright brothers original model.
To see them up close makes you realize how dangerous flying in World War II was. Frankly, they were crude and tiny compared to the modern jets we know now.
I think the most amazing thing was to see how small the Apollo capsule was. This thing was smaller than a Fiat 500 and they went to the moon and back in it! Of course I would have given anything to have been one of them.

Heading East

Yesterday was just a delightful day of riding on the road. There were wide easy curves through the rolling hills of southern Illinois and Indiana. The sun was bright and the temperatures were moderate, what more could you ask for?
How about the world's best BLT? I stopped at this little general store in the middle of nowhere just at random. BLTs are deceptive in their simplicity. This one had home grown tomatoes, homegrown lettuce, and locally grown bacon. Lots of bacon! It was so good that afterwards I went over and shook hands with the cook.
Then there was the Wabash-Cannonball toll bridge. I almost missed this gem but I turned around and went back to give it a look. At first I missed the second sign and came to the river where the road just ran into the water. I stopped at the post office and asked the lady if it was a local joke just to catch tourists. She thought that was pretty funny but pointed out where I missed the turn. The bridge is a series of old railroad trestles. The rails have been removed and you ride along the old wooden planks. 18 inches wide or you drop down on the tie beams. Needless to say I was very focused and not gazing at the scenery as I traversed the river. Taking the bike swimming once on this trip was quite enough. I'll post the video of this when I get home.
From there I crossed over to US 40. Surprisingly, parts of the original National Highway are still preserved. I got to ride on the original cross-country highway from the 1920's.
Today I'm going to take a break from riding and visit the USAF Museum. It's huge and walking around will give my b*** a rest from sitting.

Monday, July 8, 2013


The disappointment of leaving the TAT has been balanced against finding the MRT( Mississippi River Trail). This is a bicycle path from the very headwaters of the river to the Mississippi Delta. The trail winds through the back roads of each state providing an up-close-and-personal look at life along the river.
I got to ride along the top of a levy, see the broad plains of farming that make New England look tiny, and even got to ride a barge across the Mississippi River.
Where the TAT avoids all contact with humanity except for the rare gas stop, the MRT goes through every little town, village, and hamlet it can find. I met and talked to more new people yesterday than all of the rest of the trip.
One of the disappointments of motorcycle travel is that it can be either a motorcycle trip or a photo trip but can never seem to be both. There's just too much gear between me and the camera for spontaneous photo taking. I keep one camera in an outside pocket but I keep the phone very deep in my jacket. I'll try harder to take pictures I can post a long the way today.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Plan X

I went to Memphis and got new sneakers for the bike. Unfortunately, they are more suited to street and trail. I tried about 15 miles of the TAT today and on the gravel roads the bike handled like a drunken donkey on roller skates.
It was too much work and there was too much chance of an accident to continue. So Plan X is an eXit from the TAT and the beginning of the ride for home.
However, the trip has not been a failure. I've learned much about planning, about dealing with problems as they arise,  and how to stay focused when things go wrong.
Best of all, I've had a really good time. I've gotten to see some friends I haven't seen for a while and I've toured a part of the country that I've never been in before.
Tomorrow I'll head north along the Mississippi River and hopefully won't catch up with all the rain I see in New England. The TAT will be waiting for me when I return.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Losing My Grip

These tires are just about gone. However with amazingly bad planning, getting new tires on the 4th of July weekend is impossible.
Getting out on the highway doesn't seems like my brightest idea either. So I'm going back to the TAT And I'm going to ride across Arkansas for a couple days. I'll look for a bike shop on Monday and overnight some tires to them. Nobody is going to have the sizes I need in stock.
Not a critical problem with just a fun way to deal with the delay. After all, what could go wrong? It's not like this is Tanzania. Its just Arkansas.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mississippi Blues

Only 180 miles yesterday. Mississippi has proven to be a most irritating state. Many of the back roads are graded clay with a layer of crushed rock on top. It's like you're riding down a river bed mile after mile. Hemmed in by trees with nothing to see it's exhausting.
There have been some pretty parts but they've been few and far between. Also the trail is heading more south than west. I'm tempted to skip ahead to the Mississippi River but now I'm determined to finish it. It's about 120 miles to go. That should take most of the day if the roads are the same as yesterday.
Camped out again last night. Boy could I use a shower. However I'm getting better at packing and packing and even cooked dinner last night.
The tires are looking pretty shot and I'm going to have to replace them soon. I can't complain, 2600 miles of mostly asphalt and a little bit of dirt is a lot to ask out of some nobbies. The trouble is nobody's going to stock the sizes I need. I have all day to think of a solution for that problem.
Westward Ho!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I was misinformed about the reservations I had made on the Internet. I ended up sleeping next to some farmers cornfield. Who needs fireworks when you have a hundred fireflies?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TAT Day 2

Bright and sunny and warm today. Just the opposite of yesterday. Pulled over to change maps in the route sheet holder. Finally got a train and bike picture. Things are looking up.

TAT 2.1

Started early and got across the creek safely. Didn't get wet there but got wet everywhere else. Sometimes it rained and sometimes it rain harder.
No pictures for the day because the phone stayed safe in the dry bag. This morning looks bright and sunny. The forecast is for rain to chase me all day as I head West.
The day started off with a lot of dirt roads but then turned to all asphalt. Kind of like a giant Tiddler Ride. It would have been really beautiful if it wasn't for the rain.
Today I should get the rest of the way across Tennessee. Hopefully it'll get back to dirt soon. Maybe even another creek or two. ;)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back to TN

An evening of relaxing with Dave & Janice and I'm ready to try again.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Why wait for next year?!!

I'm heading back to TN tomorrow. I don't have time to go the whole distance but I'll ride the TAT for a few days before turning north back to CT.

Can't keep a Transalp down!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I get by with a little help from my friends

12 quarts of oil and 3 oil filters cleared the "chocolate milk" from the engine. It took 2 days to get it to clear. Everyone at the campground was very helpful and supportive. There were the usual good natured jokes but everybody was on my side.
Now I'm in Columbia South Carolina at a friends house. I took the headlight out and drained the water out. Nothing was spared when it went swimming.
Tomorrow I'm going to another friends in Bluffton South Carolina and then up the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Connecticut.
There's always next year for another try!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Those of you who have ridden with me before will understand this picture. I got through 3 water crossings but fell over on the 4th one. The bike went totally underwater and sucked water into the engine. I had to get off the bike in the middle of a stream, take all the luggage off, and then pick up the bike.

Once I had the luggage over to the bank I had to go back with tools and pull the spark plugs to get the water out of the engine. After 15 minutes of pumping water out of the engine with the starter motor I finally got it started. It only ran on one cylinder until I calculated that I should remove the air cleaner cause it was soggy too.

After a half hour of engine work in the middle of this stream I finally got it running well enough to pull it up on bank and let it dry out. My TAT Adventure had ended after 6.8 miles. Now I'm back at the campgrounds. I replaced the oil and it looks like chocolate milk. I rode it around a little bit and drained it again and it still looks like chocolate milk.

Today I'm going to look for a shop that can change the oil and filter. I think my adventure's over and I'm just going to try to limp back home. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wooden Tents II

The tents.

Wooden Tents

I stayed at the Cherohala Mountain Trails campground. Kellie and Wayne are perfect hosts. I spent the morning sorting out my gear. Wayne is going to  ship home a whole bag full of stuff I don't need. Less is more on the trail.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why I love Tennessee

The food is so good it's unbelievable. The roads through the Smoky Mountains were great and I had a lot of fun.
I'm staying in a little cabin in the woods tonight and I start the Trans America trail tomorrow. I'm told there's four water crossing in the first few miles. I'll post videos tomorrow I have a waterproof camera.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ready To Go - At Last !!

Hard as it may be to believe, I've finally finished my list of things to do and I'm ready to leave in the morning.

Since the last post I've had a few more square peg / round hole issues but each was dealt with in turn with patience and grace. What a crock!! I was going totally mental with the stress and aggravation. I realized that I had become my own worst enemy and took a day off to let my brain chill. There's nothing like a day spent hiking in the woods to put things back into perspective.

Now, finally, it's all together. I've taken a couple of shakedown rides to make sure nothing obvious is out of whack. I'll spend tonight going over the lists one more time to see if there is anything I've forgotten. A few more items to pack and then it's off to a good night's rest.

Tomorrow I'll hit the highway south. Because of the delays I've had to drop the idea of a leisurely ride down the Blue Ridge Highway. Instead I'll slab it down to Tennessee and start the TAT on Monday. From now on, all the posts will be from the trail.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pounding Nails With My Forehead

Still in CT. As you might guess, exhaustion and frustration are setting in. People who know me know that I'm a pretty optimistic guy. Problems are never personal, there is always a solution, I just need to find it and make it happen.

Diagram of Honda Motorcycle Parts 1989 XL600V A SHOCK ABSORBER Diagram

1552464-MN9-000COLLAR, DAMPER (LOWER)$13.65$10.09

1652464-MS6-620COLLAR A, CUSHION ARM$13.65$10.09

1752464-MS8-000COLLAR B, CUSHION ARM$15.04$11.11

Yesterday was a bit over the top. In my defense, I have never rebuilt an articulated rear suspension like the Pro-Link mono-shock on the Transalp.

My first mistake was thinking that parts 15, 16, and 17 in the diagram were simply spacers. When ordered the other parts I didn't order them. This was a fatal error as it turns out, these Collars are actually the inner races for the roller bearings (28). Another day lost waiting for Honda to overnight them on a Critical Special Order.

When they arrived Ben pressed the bearings into the dog bone (weird part in 14) and I headed home ready to reassemble it all and get on the road.

This is where I took a left turn off the ranch. Honda parts always fit! No ifs, ands, or buts! I've repeated the mantra often, "If it doesn't fit together easily, I'm doing something wrong. It's not the parts." Yesterday I forgot that and wasted 4 ½ hours trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.

My mistake was mixing up Collar A and Collar B when I installed the dog bone. They look virtually the same and but B is just a ½ mm shorter than A. As luck would have it I picked up B and put it when A should have gone. Then I tried to put A where B should go and it wouldn't fit. Tired and irritated I thought it might be something bent or out of shape. I decided to make it fit.

As I said, 4 ½ hours later I did what I should have done in the first place and went for a walk. When I got back I disassembled the dog bone and, sure enough, the parts were different. 5 minutes later Collar B went where it was supposed to (and fit better) and Collar A slipped right into place without the slightest struggle. Honda parts always fit!

It would be easy to prattle on about some life lesson to be learned here but I'll spare you. After getting it reassembled and torqued Beth & I went out for a quiet dinner and I relaxed with a glass of Irish whiskey. Could this be the turning point? Will it all get easier now?

After all, what else could go wrong?

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Used Parts


12 Volt USB Charger...

Not so good


Everyone wants to be Green these days but sometimes it's an advance to the rear.

Despite what I said yesterday, the only way to keep writing for this blog on the trip is to take pictures with my mobile phone and publish when I'm near a community with cellular service. The trick is to keep the phone charged so that it will keep working.

My first attempt was to get a Nomad 7 solar panel. Costco had one with accessories for $99. I would just hook it up, point it at the sky, and be off the grid. The theory was much better than the practice. The 7 watt panel would eventually charge my phone when it was pointed directly at the sun on a bright day but wouldn't do a thing on a cloudy day.

Worse, if I didn't unplug the phone at the peak of charge the panel would back feed and discharge the phone battery! I put it out in the afternoon with a 60% charge and came back in the morning with a totally dead battery. To my simple mind a 50¢ diode from Radio Shack would have cured this but what do I know?

Thanks to Costco's great return policy I got all my money back and went looking for another solution. What I needed was a source of power for the USB port. And there it was waiting for me at my local Cycle Gear shop. A 12 Volt Power Adapter and a 12 Volt USB Charger Adapter. Total cost only $15.98.

This is actually greener than the solar panel because it's simple wiring for an already existing power source. No extra silicon mining and processing, no heavy metal lithium storage device, no huge packaging footprint. It works day and night and draws less than ¼ amp from the battery.

Simple is always better. In this case it's a lot cheaper too.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The clock is ticking ...

The parts arrived yesterday and Ben is installing the new bearings today. Then it's up to me to assemble the pieces and bring order out of chaos. Stay tuned.

While I was packing last night I was looking over some of my old rules for motorcycle traveling:
  1. No iPod! Traveling is about listening to others, not yourself. This is the most important advice I can offer.
  2. Be willing to expose yourself to solitude. It's amazing what the world has to offer if you open yourself to the experience.
  3. Put your mobile phone in a plastic bag and wrap it in 10' of duct tape. If you can't fix the problem with the duct tape THEN you can call for help.
  4. Minimalism — lay out everything and then remove half. Wait 3 days and then remove half of what’s left.
  5. The slower you go the more you see. If you see the word "Old" in a road name, take it!
  6. Imagination will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no imagination.
  7. Make a plan, set a date, stick to it.
  8. Everything will wait until you return if it's truly important.
  9. Do not be route obsessed. If it says "West", and you're heading west, go exploring.
  10. When you meet someone along the way offer to send them a postcard.
  11. Yesterday's t-shirt can make a pretty good towel in a pinch.
  12. Never get a room at a motel next to a stop light. Always try to get a room on the top floor.
    Note: Gretjen says that you should avoid a camp site 50' from the Union Pacific main line.
  13. Nothing beats camping under the stars but sometimes a hot shower in a cheap motel is worth every penny!
Saturday, the 15th is the new launch date. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Waiting for Godot (the FedEx guy)

Spent all day yesterday waiting for parts to arrive from American Honda so I can put the rear suspension and new shock on the Transalp. Nothing ...

However, I spent my time productively. I looked over my maps and realized that since I was taking the Transalp I could go to Tennessee by way of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The TA is a much better road bike than the ATK which is limited to 50 mph due to the gearing. The TA can cruise comfortably at 70 mph and still perform adequately off-road thanks to the Dunlop 606 tires.

My intention is to slab it down to D.C. and then find a place to camp for the night. After that it will be south along Skyline Drive and BRP until I get to Asheville, NC and then jump over to Tellico Plains, TN to start the TAT.

I haven't been on this route for a long time but remember it as a place of quiet and simple elegance. It will be a stark contrast to the mountain passes of Colorado and the desert vistas of Utah. America has such a diversity of landscapes that I am constantly humbled by its beauty.

Getting to the adventure should be part of the adventure!

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again!

Do you get the feeling you've seen this picture before?

For pissing off the gods Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of endless effort and frustration. He  was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill but before he could reach the top the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again.

I'm beginning to feel the same way. Every time I think I've got the latest problem solved another appears and it begins all over again. Now I've got a new machine and I get to do all the things I did to the ATK once more. It's like playing Moto-Whack-A-Mole.

24 year old Honda shock vs new Hagon shock with remote adjuster.
However, it does give me a chance to upgrade some of the components and get the Transalp in tip-top condition. There are a number of things I've wanted to do for some time. I've been collecting parts but whenever there was a good day, riding always took precedence over wrenching. Now, however, I can't do the riding until I do the wrenching!

The Gods must be laughing.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Plan T

It appears that Zeno was an optimist. The goal line remains elusive and I'm switching to Plan T.

I took the ATK out for another test ride and an electrical gremlin appeared. The juice from the battery would disappear and then reappear intermittently. Another problem to be chased down and fixed. Frustrating!

Then came the coup de grâce, the mileage was only 35 mpg. With a 3.5 gal tank this is just 120 miles per tank. There are many sections on the TAT that are very near that and one that is 180 miles between fuel stops. Not even close. And this was optimal high gear cruising around town, not 2nd gear digging through the desert. Even with the spare fuel cells I was planning on bringing I would have no margin for error. Plus I won't be anywhere I can call AAA for help.

So on to Plan T.

My trusty 1989 Honda Transalp has served me well since I bought it new. I've ridden across country on US 50, traversed  the White Rim Trail in Moab, and gone off-roading in Baja with it. As well as all of the abuse it's taken here on New England single track trails.

It will take me a few days to go over the bike and make sure it's ready for another adventure. It's heavier than the ATK and doesn't have as much suspension but it does have a 4.6 gallon tank and gets 45  mpg which gives a range of ~200 miles. And it's a Honda! I have every confidence that it will prevail. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Zeno's paradox

In ancient Greek times Zeno proposed several paradoxes. One stated that when a person tries to reach a goal the person must first move half way to the goal. From there the person again moves half way to the goal. Since there will always be some (infinitely) small distance left to divide into halves, the person can never reach the goal.

That's how this trip feels. I'm still at home making my lists of things to do so I can go and every time I check off two items one more gets added. I checked the valves and other tune-up items but missed tightening up an oil line which produced the leak I noted in the last post. Cleaned and re-jetted the carburetor but the new floats were upside down which meant another disassembling. Although I learned that "ALTO" means top in Italian, it meant more time and energy dissipated.

As you can see the packing has yet to be completed. I've set out everything I want/need to take but I'm sure there is something I'm missing. That's why they make dumpsters and credit cards. Throw away what I don't need and buy what I've forgotten.

In case you're wondering, the answer to Zeno's paradox is found in modern calculus and limit theory. Zeno did reach the goal and I will get on the road!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Not so good

2 days before the start of the trip and I'm stuck on the side of the road with a big oil leak. Hopefully it's something I can fix quickly this afternoon. Otherwise I'm beginning to think that taking the Transalp as the backup bike is the smarter move. Too much adventure before I start the adventure, that's what I'm thinking.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Almost ready?

Does this look like I'm almost ready?

--   J. Braun  Sarcasm:  The mind's natural defense against stupidity  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Crowded Lonliness

I found an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times this morning about the digital euthanasia of the individual.
For the pop sociologists of the period after World War II, “crowd” was a scare word, an impersonal entity that would extinguish your personality, spew contempt at your uniqueness, disable the operation of your individual instincts and judgment.

Now the “wisdom of crowds” has become an accepted platitude. “Peer pressure,” far from being a pernicious influence, is something we seek out as we race from one review site to another.
Seeking Out Peer Pressure brilliantly lays out the decline of individual ideas, will, and confidence and their replacement by crowd sourced meta-thought. It's an easy and informative read that I recommend highly.

A friend pointed out one of the falicies of crowd sourced thinking:
  • Everyone professes a desire to eat healthy
  • Oreos are the most popular food item on the planet
  • If the crowd is correct → Oreos are the heathliest food you can eat
The recent crowd sourced investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings on was so like an old west posse and lynch mob that several apologies had to be issued to the people it wrongly singled out as the perpetrators. At the same time it completely missed the two who were ultimately accused and arrested.

Sharing ideas and experiences can be a good thing. That's what I'm doing here. Following blindly the digital detritus of others without critical thinking is deadly. Cattle travel in herds and they get slaughtered. Plus, they rarely look like they're having any fun.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

When bad news is good news

Usually no news is good news. Nobody wants to hear that the water heater just sprang a leak or that their car battery just died.

However, would you rather find out about that battery on a Wednesday afternoon when you can call a friend to drive you over to Sears for a replacement? Or on a Saturday night after a dinner 100 miles from home?

Such is the case with the bearings on my rear hub. I had given them a preliminary check and they seemed OK but when I had the wheel off to change tires I found there was excessive play in the rear axle. Oops!

Because an ATK is such an exclusive bike it's not like I can run down to the local Honda shop for replacements. Talon hubs are made in England but they do have an American distributor. So off to my friend Ben's shop, Moto Consult, for his connections. He is ordering the new bearings and seals for both front and rear hubs. When they come in he has the tools to press them in correctly. Disaster averted.

Better to find out now than have them fail somewhere in the Nevada desert. I would really hate having to do this all alone with nobody to help. I have been known to become cranky in such situations.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other things to do while I'm waiting.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Results from the first shake down trip

Last Saturday Tracy, Jason, and I took a trip through Pachaug State Forest to see how well the ATK was going to do on the TAT. You'll have to wait awhile for her to edit her video for a complete ride report.

The good news is that the bike is in a lot better shape than I am!! Most everything worked as it was supposed to. I, on the other hand, could use some help. Over the winter I exercised on a semi-regular schedule so my strength was good. However, my endurance was sadly lacking and after 5 hours of roots, rocks, and mud I was washed up.

This is the bike after returning home. The clever reader will notice a few bits missing. Tires were already on the menu but the fork seals were leaking and I thought it best to get them replaced.

Rather than attempt it myself I called Bill at C-Cycle Suspension to do the work. This turned out to be a very good choice. Bill found that not only were the seals worn out but so were the upper and lower bushings. Replacing them makes the forks work smoothly which, in turn, makes for more precise wheel placement.

While the bike is up in the air I'll put on the new tires, my trusty favorite Dunlop 606's. Also planned are new brake pads front and rear, plus new chain and sprockets. The brakes are in the mail, as they say and the rest of the parts are on hand. Hopefully all will be ready for the second shakedown ride on the 18th and 19th at the Berkshire Big Bike Ride (all hero sections included of course).

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Chaos Manor

Tomorrow is the first shakedown ride with the Knobbies Only group. Obviously a few items still need to be done before the bike is ready. This is where the magic happens. Over time I have built up a nice work space that is compact and organized.

A place for everything and everything in its place! Sort of ...

Everything does have a place but in the rush to get ready it may not always get back there. Plus, there is always more than one project in progress at any given time so things are scattered hither and yon.
Still, things get done in a timely fashion. Parts get into the proper bins and tools go back to the right drawer.

Truth be told, this is the most important part of the shop. Without Pepsi, nothing would ever get done!

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