Monday, December 24, 2007

More on reloading

Strangely enough, one of my posts has managed to somehow make the first page on a google search for "homemade ammo". For anyone who is looking at that one, I thought I'd add a little something I've learned from reloading. If you're going to try reloading, my biggest piece of advice would be to start with 9mm ammo. Of the calibers I have done so far, 9mm is the only one so far that appears to be impossible to overload. I had thought that switching to a powder that would only need 5 grains of powder, as opposed to 7 grains, would leave more room in the cartridge. Instead, it turns out that the other powders just didn't pack as well and took up as much room. I also haven't been able to get remotely close to the minimum overall length specified for any max load I have used. The powder takes up so much space that the bullet just won't press down that far.

To put it simply, I have yet to press a bullet in far enough to risk high pressures, and the one time I "double loaded" a cartridge, I had a huge mess on my hands.

Home for the Holidays, and the 10K mark

While my wife and I are effectively boycotting the holidays by heading to Vegas on Christmas morning, I felt like I should at least visit my parents for an evening before we left. Being a bit sick in the head, I took the motorcycle out there and back. I knew going into this that it would be 40-45 degrees on my ride there, and 50-55 with torrential rain and 25mph winds on the way back. But, since days off for bad weather won't be much of an option during my trip to Nova Scotia, I headed out anyway.

The trip out was pretty uneventful. I hit the road at 4pm, so most of the ride was in the dark. The first thing to start feeling a little numb was actually my head. Since I didn't have much luck keeping my first anti-fogging visor insert attached, and haven't taken the time to try again with the replacement I bought, I have to keep the visor cracked when it's damp out if I don't want a layer of fog in front of my eyes. As a result, I have to suffer through wind swirling around the top of my head. Fortunately, as evidenced by the fact that I left the house in this weather for a 4 hour ride, I'm not the brightest bulb. So there probably isn't
actually enough blood flow to my head to worry too much about heat loss.

The next thing to start feeling the cold was my legs and my feet. This was the point where "I wonder if Widder makes heated pants to go with my vest?" started popping into my head. Thankfully, less than an hour later, I had reached my parent's farm, and it was time for a hot meal and gift swapping.

On Sunday, things got more interesting. The sky had already opened up, so I was thankful that I was able to pack my hard luggage inside, and then just walk it out to the bike. In addition to my Rev'it Cayenne jacket and Dakar pants, which actually did quite well at keeping me dry through light sprinkles on the trip up, I was wearing my BMW Rainlock Weather Suit. I was also wearing my Rev'it Fahrenheit Gloves (last years gauntlet model, not the current ones) and my Rev'it Atlas H2O waterproof balaclava.

The ride home started with a couple spin-outs in the mud and grass before I finally made my way to the gravel driveway. A little later, I laid the bike down at an intersection in Pamplin City. I foolishly assumed that a truck with it's right blinker on was getting ready to turn onto the road I was leaving, instead of into the gas station to my right. I started moving, and stopped about a foot later. But that one foot traveled was enough to leave me with nowhere to put my right foot. Fortunately, I know the correct way to pick up a bike. So, despite the fact that my bike was loaded up, and the slope was working against me, I had it up in a moment and was right back on the road.

The bulk of my trip was spent leaning about 10 degrees to the right just to maintain a straight line. I managed to get ahead of the heavy rain once I crossed back over I-95, but the wind never really let up the entire time. The final notable event on my ride was when I hit the 10,000 mile mark on my odometer right as I was leaving Suffolk (the "C" location on the google map).

I am happy to say that, aside from a little perspiration, I was dry as a bone once I got home. I already knew my BMW rain gear did a good job. But I was happy to finally own a pair of gloves that fared as well. The Rev'it Hydratex lining definitely did a better job than the Held Ice Breakers I had used on my trip to New Hampshire. As an added plus, the Rev'its were more comfortable and I could actually work the buttons on my gps with them. I think I'm almost done getting myself geared for cold weather riding. Once I find some way to keep my legs as warm as my torso, there shouldn't be anything left.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Concealed Carry Class

Recently, I decided to start putting my NRA instructor certification to good use, and started helping a friend teach his Concealed Handgun Permit class. Granted, there's no such thing in Virginia as a "concealed carry class" as such, or at least the state doesn't give any real guidance on what needs to be covered by a class like that. As such, our class is just an NRA First Steps class, with a little extra time spent on explaining Virginia gun laws.

This most recent class, I had a new winner for scariest response to a question in class. There are a few things we like to stress in one portion of the class. The first is that you don't draw your firearm unless you believe you are going to have to shoot to protect yourself, and you have to have the will to pull the trigger once you draw. The second is that you have to have the self-control to not shoot if the criminal bolts as soon as you draw. There is a third thing we use a scenario to highlight, but I'll get to that in the story.

*******************************

Me: "Ok, a guy comes at you with a knife. You draw your firearm, and he hightails it as soon as he sees the barrel come up. At this point, is everything over?"

Them: .....stare blankly, followed by one or two saying "I guess so."

Me: "No. While you go about your business, thinking it is over, the thug is on the phone telling the police that you pointed a gun at him for no reason, and you end up in cuffs. So do you think you should do to prevent this."

Normally, I get more blank stares. Occasionally, I get the correct response of "call the police first?". On Saturday, I heard "So should I shoot him before he gets away then?".

The fact that I visibly cringed at this response was a pretty clear indication to the rest of the class that this was definitely NOT the correct action.

Me: (pulls cell phone from my off-hand pocket) "No. You use this. You call the police before he can. Police will try to claim this isn't true. But when it's one man's word against another, the first one to call is generally considered the real victim. You DO NOT shoot a fleeing man in the back."

As much as I love teaching people to shoot, and helping them be able to carry concealed for their protection, comments like that scare me. It's not his answer to that question that scares me. What scares me is that he may have another screwed up notion about something important, and I haven't thought to include that question in our course. I realize that the state only requires me to conduct a safety course, and that I only have an obligation to make sure what I say is correct. But I still wish that there was some way I could actually prepare a class for every circumstance in a four hour course.

A blog named Muhammad

I thought I'd go ahead and rename my blog for a little bit as a show of moral support to Say Uncle, even if no one actually reads my blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Garmin GPSMAP Communication Error

When I got my GPSMAP 76CSx for Christmas, a friend loaded a few of the local maps onto it to give me better shore detail when I was out kayaking. Until August, that was more than adequate. Once I got my motorcycle, however, I needed more, and Mapsource was not accommodating. Nearly every time I tried to upload maps, I'd get a communication error near the end of the process.

Searches on the web proved to be futile. Numerous people had the same problem, but no one had a solution. I looked at the Garmin site support page, and the solutions they offered there didn't change a thing. I updated both my USB drivers and my version of Mapsource, and still the same error.

Now my blog has basically no readership at all, but I'm putting this up anyway on the offhand chance that someone with the same problem might stumble across this with a Google search. The key is in turning your GPS into a USB device (effectively a flash drive), and you do that as follows:

1. Hit Menu twice
2. Select Setup
3. Select Interface
4. Select USB Mass Storage at the bottom

Now you connect to your computer and upload the maps as before. The main difference is that you won't see "Garmin Device XXX" as an option. Instead, you'll be looking for the appropriate letter drive to upload the Maps.

Update:

Normally, a Garmin GPS will be identified as "Garmin XXXX" (76CSx in my case), and that's what I see when I normally connect it to transfer waypoints, tracks, and routes. But when you change it to be seen as a USB Mass Storage device, it just looks like any other generic flash drive, since that's what you've basically turned it into.



9000 Miles

On November 4th, I went out riding to Farmville, VA for brunch with Roger Somero and a bunch of guys he knows from the Kawasaki Concours Owners Group. It was an enjoyable ride along nothing but smaller roads, but dealing with a crowd of 9 riders was a bit much for my taste. So, when we finished eating, I split off on my own under the pretext of going to see my Mom down in Phenix while I was out there, even though I hadn't been able to get them on the phone at all.

On the ride back, I hit the 9000 mile mark as I was entering Blackstone, VA. I also discovered that taking Route 40 instead of Rt. 460 is a much more enjoyable ride back home, in large part because it bypasses I-85 and I-95.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free Shooting Introduction

First, I'd like to admit upfront that I've stolen this idea from Armed Canadian, to the point that I didn't even see much need to rephrase his words much.

In the effort to promote firearm and rights awareness, I make the following open offer to any resident or visitor in the Hampton Roads area: If you have never shot a gun and would like to try, I am willing to take you shooting free of charge. I will provide the firearms, ammunition, eye/ear protection and I will cover your range fees. I guarantee if you are on the fence about gun ownership and usage, you will not be at the end of the session. You will have fun and learn a little in the process. I am certified by the NRA to teach the NRA Basic Pistol and NRA First Steps classes, and would be delighted to do a formal class with you if you think you'd like to pursue this farther.

I would also be more that willing to post contact information for anyone else who would be willing and able to help people in their area learn that people in the shooting sports can be friendly and outgoing. Just give me the following information, either by emailing me or posted as a comment, and I'll add it to this post.

1. Name
2. Email address
3. Name and location of the range(s) where you would meet interested parties.
4. Preferred nights, if any.

I'll start with myself here, and hopefully I'll have more people to add as time goes by.

VIRGINIA
Brian A.
laughingdogevolves@gmail.com
Superior Arms; Virginia Beach, VA
Sunday through Wednesday


FLORIDA
Gregory Morris
gextyr@gmail.com
Shoot Straight; Tampa, FL
Any evening

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Hampshire and the 8k mile mark.


Friday, 10/19, was the start of my first real trip since I bought my BMW. A friend I used to game with was throwing an Octoberfest party at his place up in New Hampshire, and I thought it would be appropriate for my first big trip to be one to visit friends from my last obsession.

At 6:25am, I pulled out of my garage for what was supposed to be a single day, 680 mile trek to Center Sandwich, NH. I had over-packed a bit, but not so much that it made riding unwieldy. I had tried to cut back on what I brought. But, having never taken a trip this long, this close to winter, and having never used a lot of the gear I have on a run this long, it was hard to reduce too much without taking some risks that would make me uncomfortable. With forecasts of rain, as well as the possibility of having to deal with temperatures in the 40s, I'd rather have too much gear than too little.

The first picture was taken around 10am at a gas station in Dover, DE. At that point, the trip was still going quite well. I was making good time, and the predicted scattered showers hadn't materialized yet. Sadly, when the rain did show up around 11:30, it was a bit more than scattered showers.

New Jersey was when the fun started in full force. First the downpours came. Then I discovered that the "waterproof liner" in my pricey Rev'it brand gear wasn't all it was cracked up to be. By the time I had reached a rest area, and was able to put on some proper rain gear over top of my Rev'it stuff, it was too late. I was already wet enough to make the rest of the trip less than pleasant. My next joyful experience was hitting the G.W. Bridge into NYC around 2pm.

From there, it pretty much consistently went downhill. Apparently, traffic
is always bad around there, despite was a co-worker who grew up there tried to claim a week prior to this. But the torrential rain that was sweeping the northeast that day had created almost total gridlock.The true suffering hit when I crossed over into Connecticut. I-95 basically stopped at that point. Over an hour, I covered about 14 miles. I thought that getting away from the coast might help, but Rt 15 and I-84 both ended up being just as gridlocked as I-95.

By 5pm, I had spent nearly 3 hours barely moving, and I was stuck in horrible downpours for most of it. I even got ankle deep at one point on Rt. 7 (that's ankle deep while riding...not standing), while heading towards I-84. I was damp, miserable, and cold.....and then I saw a Chili's. An hour, and two bowls of hot chili later, I was good to go again. Danbury to Hartford was another 2 hours of 25-30 mph on average. Fortunately, things started to pick up at that point. The roads had cleared and, despite the continuing rain and the darkness, I started making good time. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. My Garmin indicated that I wouldn't reach Jeff's place until around midnight, if I didn't stop anymore, which was unlikely. In addition, I had already hydroplaned twice and my legs had started getting cold. It was time for a hotel, and Andover had plenty of them.

Day 2
Saturday morning was everything I had hoped the previous day would be: pleasant temperatures and clear, sunny skies. The fall leaves were peaking in that region, and I got to enjoy every second of it. After about an hour on the interstate, and another hour of winding, tree covered roads, I was at Jeff's place. Seeing the 400 foot gravel/rock ascent that is his driveway made me very happy that I had gotten there in the day time.

Once I got there, it wasn't long until I had changed, and the eating and drinking commenced.


Day 3
I had intended to take a few hours riding some more of the beautiful New Hampshire and end up hanging out in Boston with a friend at the end of the day, with Monday being the real ride back. So I left Jeff's at noon, and spent 3 hours exploring some of the twisties in the area. At 3pm, I was at the Mass state line, and got the voicemail from my friend letting me know he had spaced and went golfing for the day. Given the choice between trying to find a way to kill time for three or more hours, only to have to sack out two hours later, or just seeing how far I could get before I was too tired, I chose the latter.

Long story short, I hit the 8k mark near the I-93/I-495 interchange, and I pulled into my garage at around 3:30am. With sunset being so early, but still having moderate traffic, I was able to do 15-20 mph over the speed limit all the way to Wilmington without any real fear of a speed trap. Once I hit Rt.13, I had to do the speed limit again. But I was almost home at that point.

Outer Banks and 7k miles

October 13th was the day of the Adventure BMW open house, which I followed with a ride down to the Outer Banks with David, one of the guys I met from the local BMW club. The plan was to head to Duck to figure out where Baldy's is located, a burger dive where my step-nephew works. Then we headed south to a little shy of Jockey's Ridge before doubling back for home. I'd have liked to have made it farther south, but my wife had made dinner plans with another couple for that evening.

The one notable thing from the trip is that I hit the 7000 mile mark within about 100 feet of the stop light in front of my old neighborhood in Moyock, NC.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Catching up

The last week or so has been pretty busy, so I've fallen pretty far behind on my bike trip logs. The first weekend of the month was the local BMW rally out near Knotts Island. Sadly, I didn't take many photos. I was too busy taking in everything while I was there to think to snap some pics in the process. The best thing about BMW rallies is the fact that so many of the riders there enjoy doing really long trips. I learned a lot of good tips to keep in mind as I get more and more off the beaten path on trips of my own. I may have also found a few riding partners for my longer hauls.

I also managed to break one of my new system cases while I was there. The owner of Adventure BMW had warned me when I bought them that I'd probably break the tab that keeps them locked. It's even bright orange to make sure you can see it if it's not out of the way. Unfortunately, that bright orange color isn't as noticeable when you're messing with your luggage at 9pm, in a dark campground, with a flashlight squeezed between your head and shoulder. I've definitely learned that I need to keep some hands-free lighting available on my bike and a spare key around to make it easier to keep both bags open at once when needed.

The other fun event that weekend was a long ride on Monday. I met a guy at work with a Suzuki V-Strom 650 (a.k.a. The Wee-strom) who is in a Kawasaki Concours owners group. It turns out that they head out about once a month for a weekend motorcycle camping trip. They also try to head out for day long rides when they can get time away from their wife and kids. So, I spent Columbus Day tailing along behind them as we rode around SE Virginia.

This is the route we took.


And this is a picture of all of our bikes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why Nova Scotia?

I've had more than one person ask me why I chose to head to Nova Scotia next June. Normally, I just tell them that I heard that it had the prettiest roads in all of North America (i.e. The Cabot Trail). In a sense, that's true, because that's what first got me looking up that way. In fact, Alexander Graham Bell is quoted as saying "I have seen the Canadian and the American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland; but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all." But as I've learned more about Nova Scotia, it's started to run a little deeper than that.

I still don't know that much about the path my family took to get into this country back in the 19th century. All I really know is that the Abbotts were once the MacNabbs. I also know that they came to the US from Scotland via Canada. Until I started learning more about Canada, I hadn't really given it much more thought than that. Now that I know that the majority of the Scottish emigrants from Great Britain came through Nova Scotia, I'd really like to experience as much of that country as I can. For all I know, I may end up passing right through a town where one of my great-great-grandparents lived before they decided to venture down to Michigan.

Monday, September 24, 2007

6000 Miles

Well, I was a little lax. I was very diligent about noting where I was when I hit the 4000 and 5000 mile marks on my bike. All I know about the 6000 mile mark is that it happened on my trip to Morton's BMW in Fredericksburg, VA. Based on the number of miles on my odometer right now, I was probably along I95 North between Richmond and Fredericksburg, most likely right around Kings Dominion.

I know I'll hit the 7000 mile mark during my trip to New Hampshire, so I hope I'll remember to hit the Waypoint button on my Garmin when it happens.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Another decision on a whim.

While I'm done with online gaming, I do still miss spending time with the old core group of guys I had played with for so long. One of the reasons it was finally so easy for me to quit playing was that we had all gotten scattered to the winds as a result of a twisted love triangle involving a few of the younger people in the group. For any WoW widows or Everquest widows out there, your spouses don't play because the games are that phenomenally interesting. They play because they're part of a network of people that respect them and want them around.

For people who grew up without much of a social network, or for those of us that were the embarrassing black sheep of the family, finding yourself with a group of people that size that wants you around is a hard thing to let go of. Based on that, there are really only a few ways that they'll stop playing the game that gives that emotional reward: the group collapses, their real life falls apart so much that gaming becomes impossible, or they find something else in the real world that gives them a feeling of accomplishment. For me, it was a combination of the first, followed by stumbling across an ad for a BMW R1150R.

Now I've decided to use my newly revisited real world hobby to go visit the people from my old one. Chesapeake, VA to Center Sandwich, NH in one day (on 10/19), followed by two days partying with all of the old people I spent so much time "with" on ventrilo, and then back again in one day. The last time I owned a motorcycle, I had been riding for almost a year before I tried something like this (though that was still almost 100 miles shorter). This time, I'm doing it about 12 weeks after I purchased my new baby. I guess the fact that I regularly go head out for 6 hours or more a day every weekend already makes the 12 hour trip seem a little less intimidating......having a real bike helps too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

So freaking funny

I have been a Sabrina Matthews fan for about three years, ever since I first caught her Comedy Central performance. Unfortunately, living in Virginia has made it a little difficult to ever see her perform live. After a year or so, I had given up on even looking at her schedule, since the occasional NYC show always happened at some point that I couldn't get out of town. So I'd just settle for re-watching her special on my Tivo periodically.

Then the stars began to align. First, she got a little coverage on Last Comic Standing. Sadly, she didn't make it far, though I wasn't terribly surprised by this. Her jokes require a little IQ to understand, which doomed her on network television. However, seeing her on TV prompted me to take at look at her site again. Lo and behold, she was heading to Norfolk, VA to perform..........on a gay casino riverboat cruise.

Now, deep down, I don't really care whether someone is gay or not. But after a very uncomfortable trip to Miami a few years ago, I wasn't very eager to be stuck on a 3 hour boat cruise with a bunch of gay men. But then I decided that no amount of being treated like a piece of meat could possibly outweigh being able to finally see Sabrina live. Besides, now I'm older, grayer, and about 20 pounds heavier.

Once the show came to an end, I had learned a few things. First of all, I feel so bad for the gay men and women in this area. That was the homeliest looking bunch of men and women I have ever seen. I didn't think any cities were allowed to have that many overweight, ugly, tacky gay men at one time. It was like a fat Village People convention.

Second, I have learned that I am actually capable of acting like an idiot fan. Over the years, I've stumbled across a few actors here and there. But not once did I feel any need to walk up and bother them. Even when I was riding a ferry back from Seattle after a long night of partying and saw Chris Kattan, I just didn't feel any need to stand up and walk over. But put me on a boat with Sabrina Matthews, and I'm right there saying the typical clich├ęs: "I love your performances so much", "I've had your act saved on my Tivo for 3 years", "I'm so glad you were able to make it out here to the boonies", etc.

The final thing I learned is that Sabrina Matthews has to be the funniest comic I've ever had the fortune to see live. I go out of my way to see stand-up any chance I can, from local stuff to people like Ron White and Janeane Garofalo, and none of them made me laugh like she did. It was simply amazing how she handled being on the top of a tiny little riverboat, just a few feet from all the people there. It felt almost like she was just sitting in our living room performing, and she took every quirky thing that could possibly happen on a boat full of gay men in stride. By the end of the show, I thought I was going to pass out from laughing so hard.

The main point of this is that anyone reading this needs to follow the links at the top and go watch her stuff. If you think that is funny, you absolutely need to see her live.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What a load of crap

Radio frequencies help burn salt water

Ok, I understand that the media are desperate to find alternative fuels, because without undeveloped options around to hype up, they can't freak about global warming quite as easily. But acting like this is something ground breaking is simply mind boggling. For anyone that took high school chemistry, this is not a new concept. You can use electricity to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen and burn it. If you're really motivated, you can separate the anode and cathode into different test tubes to see the difference between lighting up oxygen and lighting up hydrogen.

Using radio waves on salt water instead of direct electricity on fresh water doesn't change the key problem with this, and I assume it's still a problem or they wouldn't ignore this issue entirely. No mater what form of energy you use to break down the water, it takes more energy to split the molecules than you get from burning what comes out. This ground breaking concept is an ENERGY SINK. It's the same thing as using $100 of electricity to create $50 of gas.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The trip planning begins.

Since this blog exists primarily as a place to keep track of my motorcycle and kayak trips, I figure this is as good a place as any to plan out my trips as well. If I'm lucky, I may even be able to get a few people that have been to some of these places suggest some detours to either see interesting places, or avoid traffic nightmares.

The first trip on the list is Nova Scotia in June next year. I'm hoping to leave on a Wednesday after work, and then get back 10 days later around Saturday afternoon. I still haven't made up my mind about what places are necessities while I'm up there, and which are optional. Sadly, I don't think I can really get in everything without about 3 weeks to kill. I also haven't made up my mind about whether I'll stick to hotels, or mix in some camping.

Day 1/2 route (Wed 6/18/2008, Thu)
Day 3 route (Friday 6/20/2008)
Day 4 route

Day 5 route (Sunday)
Day 6 route
Day 7 route

Day 8 route [Cape Breton to Halifax] (Wednesday)

Day 9 route [Halifax to Yarmouth/Portland]

Day 10 /11 route [Portland to Home]

The only thing that is really fixed is that I would need to be at Yarmouth, NS by around 3pm on Thursday to catch the Cat Ferry to Portland. I also need a full day with the Cabot Trail up in Cape Breton, and I'd like a few hours along some various parts of the Fundy Bay. Beyond that, it's not easy to narrow things down. I could just do a casual loop of the Cabot Trail in one day, or I could do half one day, make my way to Meat Cove to camp overnight, and back the other side of the Trail the next day. In theory, the Skyline Trail sounds like it would be a nice hike as well. But I suspect I'd spend most of the time on there just jonesing to be back on my bike. So the hike may just wait until I can go back to Nova Scotia with my wife.

Update: I have decided to scrap camping. If I stick to hotels, I don't have to pack nearly as much stuff. In addition, if I just make Baddeck my central point for several days, I can leave a lot of my luggage in my room, making for a much lighter ride for a little bit.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I love my bike, but...

Much like with my first motorcycle, gearing up my BMW has been an educational experience. The first thing I've learned is that there must not be that many people that take an R1150R for long trips, because almost no one makes decent luggage for it. Fortunately, since my bike is 3 years old, there's a great forum where other people have spent several years figuring out who makes luggage that fits, and which works the best.

As it stands now, I'm just ecstatic that I finally found a Hepco-Becker rack for their top cases that will actually work with my factory luggage racks. I just wish I could get as lucky with finding some used BMW system cases. Every time I find some on Ebay, someone who has never bought anything starts driving the price up at the last minute. While I'm more than willing to pay $400-$500 for plastic saddle bags if they're in good condition, I'm not keen on people that look like they're probably just shill bidders.

Fortunately, since my first real trip isn't until June, when I head to Nova Scotia, I can probably hold out until March before I finally have to suck it up and pay retail for a new set.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I've found the Deadmines


That's right, I found Van Cleef's little hidey hole while I was heading home from my Mom's new place. For those who doubt me, pictures don't lie.


Since I hadn't packed anything other than some crappy gray items, I chose to pass on trying to solo the place, and I hadn't invited a healer or tank along either. I guess I'll have to wait a little longer for a shot at a Cruel Barb.


Edit: I emailed this to a few friends that play WoW, and the following was probably the best response I got:

"
That is too funny!
"VANCLEEF MAKE YOU PAY BIG FOR YOUR TIRES!""

Damn bikers!

Yesterday was another 400 miles under my belt, and I keep learning a little more about what I need to change if I want to pull off a trip to Nova Scotia next June. This trip was a quick hop to my Mom's place for a couple of hours, and then right back the same afternoon. What's really ironic is that my only moment of aggravation was caused by some other motorcycle riders.

While traveling down Rt 460, I caught up to 3 guys on Harleys doing about 5-10 miles below the speed limit, and one of them refused to get out of the left lane. I guess he was too busy hunching over top of his fuel tank like an idiot to actually move over. I finally got sick enough of them that I split between the 3 of them to pick up speed again. It just struck me as funny that my first time splitting between vehicles on the road was because of some twit wanna-be bad asses on Harley-Davidsons.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Milestones

When I bought my motorcycle in the end of July, it had about 3400 miles on it. Since then, I decided that I'd try to keep track of where I was every time I hit an even thousand on the odometer. I'd really like to manage some photos each time I do that. But I've had to accept that doing that probably won't usually be very feasible.

I hit the 4000 mile mark just outside of Little Plymouth, Virginia while cruising along route 14. Having been down it now, I'm not surprised that it's on the list of scenic roads in Virginia. Interestingly enough, I hit the 5000 mile mark at my driveway. Granted, I cheated a little by doing an extra lap around the neighborhood to pull that off....but I'm cheesy that way, so I'm counting it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Homemade ammunition

About 2 years ago I bought a reloading press, along with an assortment of related accessories. Being a WoW junkie, all of that ended up sitting in the box it arrived in until a couple of months ago. Then it took me until about a week ago to finally buy primers, bullets, gunpowder, and clean up some used brass. After all of that, tonight was the night that I finally made my first batch of 9mm ammo.

Normal store bought full metal jacket (FMJ) for 9mm uses bullets that weigh 115 grains. I decided to use this opportunity to make something a little different from the norm. Instead of trying to basically duplicate factory ammo, I used 125 grain FMJ bullets and used a gun powder variety (Blue Dot) that takes up so much volume that it's impossible to accidentally put two loads into one bullet.

Tomorrow should be the day I go try this stuff out. Hopefully I'll still have all my fingers once I've tried it out.

Update: Read this if you're looking to start reloading yourself.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And the conditioning begins

Well, I've finally managed to make time to go riding for something more than just a spin around the rural stretches of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Initially, I had hoped to jet out to Richmond for lunch with Donia. But, since I never got hold of him, I decided to spend the better part of the day seeing parts of Virginia that I haven't seen in about a decade or so.

The early part of the ride was pretty uneventful. I started up Rt 17 to Gloucester, then took Rt 3 until it hit US 360 in Warsaw. From there, I just kept following 360 until I found a small road to jump over to Rt 14. I've learned a couple valuable things here. First, any "600" road in VA is miserable to ride. They're all paved, but just barely. On the other hand, Rt 14 is FUN. It's beautiful, it's twisty, and there's almost no traffic (besides the occasional motorcycle traveling the other direction).

Unfortunately, I learned something else this trip: people weren't exaggerating about how painful it is to spend long periods of time on the stock R1150R seat. It definitely looks like a custom Sargent seat is the next item on my shopping list.

Well, if any of you guys are curious about the actual route I took, just click here and you'll see the bulk of it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

How I like to end my evenings

Blackberry Mojito

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
4 teaspoons granulated sugar (or 2 packets of Splenda)
2 limes
1/4 cup fresh blackberries
3/4 cup light rum
1 cup club soda
2 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

1. Place the mint and sugar in a mortar and "muddle" it with a pestle. Squeeze in the lime juice and add half of the blackberries. Lightly crush the berries.

2. Pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker and add the rum and soda. Shake to mix.

3. Place 4 large cubes of ice in two rocks glasses and divide the drink equally between them.

4. Garnish each glass with the remaining blackberries and a sprig of fresh mint.



Now, i tend to prefer this with raspberries instead of blackberries, and I use 7up instead of club soda, so I have to cut back on the amount of sugar used. I've also found that it's a lot less messy if you don't put the soda in until after you've used the shaker. Maybe I've been doing something wrong, but using a shaker with a carbonated beverage seems to be a bit messy. Another important thing to note is that you can just use a spoon and bowl to break up the mint. The important thing is to break it up enough to get the mint oil into the sugar.

NRA Certified

It's downright amazing to me just how much I've done in the last couple of weeks when I think of how little I accomplished the 6 months or so prior to that. Yesterday was the last day of my NRA Basic Pistol Instructor class, so my wife and I are now both certified to teach people how to shoot safely (or at least we will be once the paperwork gets back to us).

Before my wife's shooting instructor encouraged us to do this, I really hadn't given it much thought. I've always spent a lot of time trying to introduce other people to the shooting sports before this. So, when the opportunity was presented to me, it did seem like a logical extension of what I was already doing. What was the most shocking to me was how quickly I've found myself already in a position to start doing actual instruction. It turns out the range where I do some of my shooting, and my wife does all of hers, has a shortage of instructors available. I had friends teaching there already, so I hadn't thought I'd be able to do classes at the same location. But apparently they still have a surplus of people that want to take classes. So before I my wife and I had even finished taking the class, we had a gentleman that works at the range talking to us about helping him run more classes there.

I'm just excited that I'll be able to help more people get started in this incredibly enjoyable hobby, make some extra money on the side to buy even more toys, and do something that would look fantastic on an FBI application all at the same time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wonders never cease

Well, tonight was "ride a motorcycle for the first time" night for my wife. We didn't head out until dusk, so she didn't get much scenery, and the bug splatter increases by a factor of about 100 once it's dark out. But she gave it a shot and had a lot of fun.

It is pretty clear that I'll need to replace the stock seat on my Beemer if I want to get her to come along on anything longer. Maybe a custom seat from Sargent with a stealth backrest. I'm sure my wife would enjoy having something more than open air behind her but while we're cruising around. If I can get the seat before Labor Day, I might be able to convince her to cruise down to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands for a weekend after the tourists start to clear out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Even my wife enjoys a little change

Well, Sunday was my wife's first time out in a kayak. Shortly after buying my motorcycle, I stumbled across a guy selling a Carbon Fiber Necky Elaho HV kayak on Paddling.net for less than 1/2 the price of a new one, and it was basically unused. Ironically enough, I had actually been torn between a poly (plastic) Necky Elaho and the poly Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 I bought when I was shopping for my first one.

My wife had always passed on earlier offers to come paddle with me, despite the fact that the friend I paddle with (Paul) had several extras. But with 2 kayaks sitting in the garage, and the fact that I'm not gaming anymore, I was finally able to convince her to give it a shot.

Paul has a web page where he posts photos and the gps track of any trips that he takes, and managed to snap a few of us while we were out and about. However, he only posted one of them because my wife prefers to have as little on the internet as possible that might prove she actually exists. Having a fairly public job, she finds that makes it easier to keep her private and public life separate.

My wife is the one on the right in the red kayak and I'm in the yellow one. If you get time, the photos from a lot of Paul's other trips are worth checking out as well. My personal favorites are from his Urban Kayaking page.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Change is a good thing

Well, after 3 years of online gaming, I decided it was finally time for me to move on to other things. Years ago, before I was online gaming, and before my first marriage (to be known hereafter as "The Mistake"), I rode a motorcycle. From the time I was a teenager, I had dreamed of having one. My best friend at the time and I would talk about the excursions we would take when we finally managed to get our first bikes.

I got my first motorcycle in 1998, shortly after I graduated from college. When I got it, I knew my job would be sending me to Seattle for 4 months at the end of the following summer, so every weekend was spent conditioning myself for longer and longer stretches on the road. I had the most haphazard set of riding gear, and it's amazing I didn't get hypothermia sometimes as I rode in the winter. But the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream can carry you through a lot. In July of 1999, I began my first multi-day trip. Eight days, and roughly 4000 miles later, I arrived in Seattle. Sadly, the motorcycle shop that worked on my bike once I got there turned out to be made up of hacks. The bike never ran reliably after that. It was shipped home later in the year, and never ran again.

As years went by, I had pondered getting a bike again. But long hours at work and dealing with a miserable marriage pushed that far down my list of priorities. Then, within days of my divorce being final, I discovered Star Wars Galaxies. A year of that led to a couple more years of World of Warcraft. If you haven't played games like these, it's not really possible to describe just how addictive they can be. The term "Skinner's Box" gets thrown around a lot to describe why people keep playing. But I'd have to say that it's the relationships you develop in the game that really keep you there. I don't miss playing World of Warcraft (WoW). But I do miss the friends I made in there. Spending time with the friends I had kept me playing WoW for at least 2 or 3 months after the game itself had stopped really being any fun for me.

Now I own a 2004 BMW R1150R motorcycle (yes, they make bikes too), a new carbon fiber kayak to replace my old Tsunami 145, and I have a cancelled WoW account. I miss the friends I played with in WoW. But I'm hoping this blog will give me a way to stay in touch with some of them, and let them know what I'm doing these days. Sometimes, I'll just be using this to comment on things I stumble across that I find interesting. But it will also get a lot of use as a trip log for my jaunts on my motorcycle or in my kayak.

Now I just need to figure out a good way to host all the photos I'll be taking on the weekends.